THE INFORMANT!: The Film Babble Blog Review
September 20, 2009 Leave a comment
THE INFORMANT! (Dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2009)
In a piece of inspired casting, Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre – the pudgy mustached toupee-wearing former President of Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) who was an FBI informant in the early to mid 90’s. However his heroic whistle-blowing stance was fairly jeopardized by the fact that he was defrauding his company of 9 million dollars during the same period.
At first, he seems a decent plain spoken sort, a straight-laced family man with a loving wife (Melanie Lynskey) comes through in an opening voice-over extolling the virtues of corn in his chosen industry. As he goes on shifting from corn to the German name for pen (“kugelscheiber”) and back again, it becomes apparent that this is less an inner monologue than an unstoppable stream of consciousness that runs throughout the film sometimes obscuring important info that folks around him are trying to parlay.
Damon’s Whitacre sees himself as a character in a Crichton novel; a good guy going up against a corrupt corporation. Initially we do too as his company is indeed guilty of price fixing and the film comes from the director of ERIN BROCKOVICH, but its take on the character zippy comic style places it more accurately somewhere between the OCEAN’S movies and OUT OF SIGHT Soderbergh-wise.
A couple of FBI agents (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale) are stupefied by Damon’s stories yet still wire him up to get the evidence against ADM. He makes hundreds of tapes, narrating them as he goes, and the case gets stronger but after a raid of his company the operation rapidly unravels with facts fudged and forged documents piling up to expose Damon’s dementia.
While the film at times over-estimates the wackiness of its plotting, the tone is pleasingly punchy with a groovy score provided by the master of groovy scores: Marvin Hamlisch. Matched with colorful AUSTIN POWERS-ish titles, Hamlisch’s brassy 60’s pastiche, including a parody of John Barry’s “James Bond Theme”, suits the material marvelously as if it’s as much the product of Damon’s psyche as the voices in his head.
The supporting cast is curiously made of a roster of comic actors (the before mentioned McHale, Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, Tony Hale, and Allen Havey) who you’d more likely expect to be present at a roast on Comedy Central than as button down “suits” with almost no funny lines in a slick Soderbergh satire. That they provide a sober stone-walling counterpoint to the delightfully off kilter Damon gives the THE INFORMANT! a cunning comic gravity.
And now for no other reason than that the film featured in this post has an exclamation point in its title, here’s:
10 More Movies With Exclamation Points In Their Titles:
2. ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES!
3. FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!
4. ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL
5. WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!
6. OH, GOD!
7. 18 AGAIN! (Another George Burns movie! How about that?)
8. BEWARE! THE BLOB
9. TORA! TORA! TORA!