Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Based on the Book by: Kurt Eichenwald
Steven Soderbergh has done basically everything every director could ever set out to do in his career. He brought independent film to the mainstream with his 1989 debut sex, lies, and videotape. He made a movie about Franz Kafka. He made one of the coolest heist films ever (despite the fact that it was a remake) with Ocean’s Eleven. He made a movie about the life of Che Guevera. And he’s turned a porn star into a leading lady with The Girlfriend Experience. So what’s he doing now? A movie about a corporate whistleblower based on a true story? Didn’t he already do that? Oh no that was Erin Brocovich. She wasn’t corporate, she hates corporations.
The Informant! is the story of Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), the vice president of ADM, a company that conspires to fix the price of lysine, a food additive, with their competitors. After the FBI responds to a call by one of Whitacre’s bosses about an extortion claim, Whitacre decides to clear his conscience and admit to the scheme feeling that if the plan were to be exposed he would be the fall guy. The film then follows his 2.5 years in service of FBI building a case against ADM. Once FBI finally gets all it needs and raids ADM Whitacre and the film unravel into an unsettling and ambiguous mess (but that’s not necessarily a bad thing).
The film overall is enjoyable, but Soderbergh is overbearing and off-putting. He really wants you to know that Mark Whitacre is unstable by using voiceover to give light to Whitacre’s regular irreverent thoughts about polar bear hunting, Japanese panty vending machines, and Michael Crichton. A ridiculously upbeat score is also used during the movie’s most poignant scenes to contrast the overly serious corporate thrillers of the 90s the film seems to be paying homage to, as well as rejecting. When the film unravels in the third act and Soderbergh lets the film play out on it’s own it’s a welcome break.
But yeah, Matt Damon is awesome in this and I can totally see Mark Whitacre becoming a classic movie character.