Review: The Informant!

Audiences don’t like to be lied to, but that’s all part of the fun of “The Informant!,” Steven Soderbergh’s best recent directorial effort that hasn’t been titled with a number between 11 and 13. The film sweeps us into a world of corporate crime and “espionage” and flavors it all with a thorough peppering of amusing anecdotal narration from an excellent Matt Damon as the mustache and four-eyed Mark Whitacre, VP of an agribusiness corporation specializing in corn cultures.

“The Informant!” is white-collar ’90s period comedy with a quirky ’60s spin on it through the use of flower-power title cards and a fantastic score by old-time esteemed songwriter Marvin Hamlisch. It helps lighten the mood of a film that’s a lot of talk, that really ends up being more about its main character than the corporate scandal he creates for himself as he tries to turn informant without considering the consequences.

Whitacre is a nut, but he’s smart and gets the job done and Damon recognizes that. In his own strange ways, he makes sense of things and forms beliefs that “Bourne Ultimatum” screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (based on the Kurt Eichenwald book) expounds upon us with the constant narration that breaks into and interrupts scenes. In the film, he gets the FBI investigating into the corporation he works for because he says he’s tired of the illegal price fixing they’re engaging in with their foreign competitors. Then slowly, one turn of the spool at a time, Whitacre reveals part of the truth that he hadn’t mentioned before, further frustrating the FBI agents working with him, his superiors at the company and making things more interesting for the audience.

Damon as Whitacre is really the heart, the nucleus of “The Informant!” It’s a dialogue-heavy film and without any big names in the supporting cast, the impetus is on Damon to add the dimension and the unconventionality — an intrigue factor. The script at its core is a character story of a man who can never embrace the whole truth, so that should be its best part, making “The Informant!” set up to be well-received at the least.

This isn’t the kind of movie you rave about, but you have to applaud at how it uses what it has to be the best film it can be. Casting Damon and showing off his comedic side is something anyone who has seen a good deal of his films can appreciate. Playing Whitacre stretches him talent-wise and proves he’s a good fit for just about any kind of role. And you have to hand it to a man who can play a ripped Jason Bourne but then pack on the belly pounds to play a twisted business exec.

“The Informant!” is not a corporate thriller or a true gut-splitting comedy, but it’s really a well-made, interesting, unique and entertaining film from a director who has really needed a whole lot of that lately.

4/5 Stars

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Scott Z. Burns, Kurt Eichenwald (book)
Starring: Matt Damon


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