Monday, March 01, 2010

The Informant: Grade B

The Informant (2009)
Matt Damon, Melanie Lynsky, Scott Bakula; Director Steven Soderbergh.

Damon is Mark Whitacre, the high level employee of ADM who blew the whistle on the company’s illegal price fixing in the mid-1990’s. In this it roughly parallels the far superior 1999 movie, The Insider, in which Russell Crowe blows the whistle on tobacco company shenanigans.

Whitacre reports the price fixing activity to the FBI, for motives that are unclear, and works for them as an informant for three years, wearing hidden microphones at meetings and so forth. For some reason, perhaps poor directing, there is very little dramatic tension throughout the first half of the movie while this is all going on. It is presented almost as a straight documentary, and the pace is far too slow.

But in the second half it takes a turn when tone and mood are properly separated. Just after the FBI makes the raid on ADM headquarters, Whitacre’s believability starts to break down and the FBI is horrified to learn that all has not been what it seems. The drama develops a light comic tone as incredible (but true) revelations continue to unfold. The last half of the film is quite interesting and the writing seems much stronger.

I had no idea Matt Damon could act, but this proves it. The supporting cast is also outstanding, including Whitacre’s wife (Lynsky) and even a tiny role with Anne Cusack (I love all the Cusacks). Photography is attractive throughout, although a bit heavy on the sepia tones. Everything was not sepia toned in the 90’s – it wasn’t that long ago! Sets and costumes were perfect. So all in all, an enjoyable time can be had with this picture.

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