It drives me crazy when people talk in the movie theaters (almost as much as when they talk in church!) However I must say I smiled in agreement when, halfway through the new Matt Damon movie, a man a few seats away cried out, “Where is this movie going?!”
The Informant! is certainly an odd movie. Is it to be taken seriously, or is it a satire? It’s not until almost the end that you know for sure. One cue is the Marvin Hamlish score. It’s whimsical and lighthearted, the kind of score you’d expect in a comedy. Not at all what you’d expect in a movie with wire-tapping FBI agents! This is one way that veteran director Steven Soderberg (Traffic, Ocean’s 11) informs the audience not to take everything at face value.
The Informant! is based on the true story of Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a whistle-blowing vice president of Archer Daniels Midland (ADF), a huge argri-business firm. Set in the 1990’s, Whitacre calls in the FBI to investigate a global price-fixing scheme. Along with the effective Hamlish score, Whitacre’s increasingly odd behavior is another clue that there is something more than a straightforward story of a courageous little guy who takes on the villainous corporate giants. Damon (who gained about 30 pounds for the role) keeps the audience off-guard by playing Whitacre as sometimes naïve, sometimes goofy, sometimes excitable, sometimes double-crossing character. In the midst of a suspenseful scene, Whitacre’s interior monologue is often about irrelevant details, like the clothing someone is wearing. When you think you have him figured out, there’s another unexpected turn of events. Like the man in the theater, halfway through the movie, I wasn’t sure what was going on either.
Despite the confusion, Soderberg and screenwriter Scott Burns, (adapting a book by Kurt Eichenwald’s), kept me interested enough to stay with the movie. I can’t reveal much more about the plot without issuing a spoiler alert! Suffice it to say that, if you’re patient, you’ll be rewarded with an interesting character study that will surprise you. Yes, it’s a movie about corporate greed, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg here. Dominicans will find a real test of Veritas before the film is over.
Marketed as a comedy, The Informant! is rarely a “laugh out loud” kind of movie. But from the exclamation point in the title, to Hamlish’s score, to Damon’s performance, to the surprises in the plot, there are lots of reasons to smile and grin throughout. If you’re interested in a change-of-pace that might make you think while still be entertained, check out The Informant!
Tom Condon, OP
The film contains a few uses of profanity and some rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.