Sunday, September 20, 2009
Steven Soderbergh's latest film The Informant! is one of those rare movies that successfully mixes several different genres. There are moments of comedy, suspense, and drama as Soderbergh prefers to make irony and deadpan comedy out of his subject matter rather than all-out dramatize it. I also found myself enjoying the film more and more as it went along. The first twenty minutes felt a little bland and, at the beginning, I didn't quite understand the frequent Matt Damon voice-over. But, as we learn more and more about Damon's complex character, we start to understand all of the pieces that are presented to us, and this becomes a truly enjoyable film.
Mark Whitacre, brought to life by Damon's terrific performance, is a promising young executive working at the corrupt company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) located in Decatur, IL. At the beginning of the film, a virus has infiltrated ADM causing them to lose millions of dollars each month. Whitacre then comes to the realization that there is a mole inside the company secretly working for a foreign competitor.
As a result, the FBI decide to plant a wire in Whitacre's phone lines to try and find out who this mole is. The bureau dispatches agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) to Whitacre's home to plant the bug. At his wife's suggestion, Mark then confesses the true fraud of his company. He explains that several ADM executives, including himself, have been holding meetings with various competitors for the sole purpose of fixing the price of lysine. This is not something Mark is proud of, but it is very tough for him to admit because he knows the risks of sacrificing his future at the company.
After this revelation, our informant is born. Agent Shepard, along with agent Robert Herndon (Joel McHale), convince Whitacre to wear a wire and become an undercover agent for the FBI. Mark's life is changed forever as he is forced to live a double-life, never knowing to who he can or cannot tell the truth. By the end of the movie, Whitacre ends up with over two hundred tapes, and he is eager to prosecute his bosses and become the CEO of ADM.
Matt Damon puts himself on the short list for an Oscar nomination with his performance. He does such a terrific job of humanizing the main character, while also staying funny enough to be consistent with Soderbergh's tone. This is easier said than done as Whitacre is one of the more complex characters to be seen so far this year. By the end of the film, it is tough to decide whether we should feel sorry for him or whether he deserved what he got.
Whitacre's wife in the film is played by Melanie Lynskey, who many might recognize as Rose from CBS's Two and a Half Men. She does a fine job in her light role as a wife who might believe in her husband a little bit too much. The score by Marvin Hamlisch is sure to turn off many, but it certainly feels right for the movie.
I found myself very surprised at how much I liked this film by the time it was over. It is a movie that becomes stronger as it goes along, and that is really an admirable quality. It makes the experience very rewarding because with every new thing we learn about our main character, we are forced to re-evaluate our feelings for him and decide whether or not he truly deserves the sympathy he has gained from us.