I’ve always wondered what people 50 or 60 years ago would think of movies today. Back then it seemed like when a movie was released, it was an event. It was done up. Now, all kinds of stuff is thrown out there. And all the time, too. There are new movies coming out every week. Are there people around today who were alive 50 or 60 years ago who I could ask about that? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to know.
If I were releasing a movie, I’d want to do it old school. I’d want it to be an event. If the movie were like a story I was telling a friend, I’d say something like, “Dude! I HAVE to show you something!” The Informant! wasn’t that sort of movie. It was more like telling your friend, “Oh yeah. This funny thing happened and it reminded me of you.” Does any of that make sense? No? I understand.
In the film, Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, a vice president at agriculture business giant Archer Daniels Midland. Whitacre turns whistleblower (or Informant!) and confesses to the FBI that ADM is involved in a price-fixing scheme with the food additive lysine. Now this is where things get weird. Whitacre suffers from bipolar disorder and there’s plenty he’s not sharing with anyone. Slowly, the FBI discovers what that is as Whitacre works to gather evidence against ADM over the next three years.
To start off, I’ll say that trailers for The Informant! are lying to you. They make the movie look funny, which it is, but they also make it look lighthearted, which in end I didn’t think it was. The movie isn’t doom and gloom or anything like that, but once it’s over you feel like there’s something that isn’t sitting right with you, and you realize it’s because you went into the movie with different expectations. What were you expecting? You’re not sure of that either, you just know it was something different.
Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre is a lot of fun to watch. A piece of me did feel like he was shoehorning himself into the role just a little bit, although I think that may have had something to do with his makeup. I saw George Clooney gain weight for Syriana and I thought to myself, “Yeah. That’s believable.” There’s something that wouldn’t let me do that for Damon. The hairstyle and mustache and bad ties are all great, but throughout the movie I kept thinking, “Man, if that guy got a haircut and lost about 30 pounds he’d look just like…Matt Damon.” For me it was kind of like he was playing dress up and not necessarily a character that came naturally to him.
While most of the movie shows just how bumbling and unaware of himself Whitacre is, the ending brings in some emotion and really changes the film’s tone. Damon shines through the whole thing. Whitacre playing secret agent during his high-level meetings with ADM execs are the most fun to watch, but his interactions with Scott Bakula and Joel McHale — Whitacre’s FBI handlers — are great fun too. The no-nonsense authority figures who only become more exasperated as the film goes on make perfect foils for the seemingly absent-minded Whitacre. Other appearances from Tony Hale, Scott Adsit, and Patton Oswalt, among others really make you keep your eyes peeled. I think putting those names in smaller roles helped bring the movie together in a way it might not have done otherwise.
Visually, the film is great. Its look is matched up with the soundtrack in a way that reminded me a lot of Ocean’s 13. I guess it’s just Steven Soderbergh’s style. With The Girlfriend Experience and Che being among his most recently completed films, It looks like that almost hyperreal look is something he’s only beginning to venture into. I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes with it.
If you’ve got to head out and catch something in the theaters, this is probably your safest bet, but you won’t be missing anything if you hold out and wait for the DVD. This is a good movie, but I have a feeling that the entire story will make more sense if you just read the book. B-