A feature film about a true, global price-fixing scheme for a corn product is not the sort of fare that inspires interest and laughs. In fact, it would probably inspire the very opposite. But if you can grasp at tendrils of insanity in the story, running fictionally wild, and put it in the hands of an incredibly able actor, you might have something like “The Informant!” Hit the jump to learn about the insane world of “The Informant!”
Damon stars as Mark Whitacre – a high-ranking executive at ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) who became the U.S.’s biggest whistle-blower when he not only let the FBI know about an international price-fixing scheme, but also spent a few years helping them get the proof they needed. Mark starts off as a bumbling hero, trying to do the right thing and be the good guy, while doing just about every idiotic thing you can imagine – giving a commentary when wearing an audio tap, staring at a hidden camera … all of the things that should get him caught, but never do. As he gets further entrenched, his actions don’t hurt the case, but his mouth does, rattling off his own pricey flirtation with embezzlement and getting him in hot water of his own.
“The Informant!” plays out like an interesting dance between filmmaker and star, each knowing when to break out and shine, and when to slip into the background. At first, the film rests entirely on Damon’s quirky inner monologue, which ranges from thoughts about the metric system to wondering about polar bears and their black noses – entirely strange thoughts that pull along the cinematic monotony of office work and rich men in suits. Here and there, little jolts from director Steven Soderbergh, cameos by funny names like the Smothers Brothers and Joe Hale, and a retro, trumpet-heavy score by Marvin Hamlisch keep things moving. And as the monologue gets tired and the quirk becomes mundane and overdone, the story accelerates and takes over. The twists begin as each moment rips a new layer away in Whitacre’s circus of earnestness and lies.
It’s a strange and unique film that takes something as oft-criticized as a voice-over and makes it work in the best possible way, but that also speaks to the nature of the material. This isn’t your typical film, just like this certainly isn’t a typical Matt Damon role, and Mark Whitacre definitely isn’t your typical informant.