The All-Time Best Comedy About Anti-Trust Violations
The Informant! is a comedy about a price-fixing investigation in the
feed additives industry. Yes, that sounds impossible. But it works --
Matt Damon stars as Mark Whitacre, a senior executive at Archers
Daniels Midland (ADM), who becomes an FBI informant in connection with
investigations into ADM's business practices in the early to
mid-1990's. Whitacre believes that if he blows the whistle against the
bad guys at his company, it will help his career. Needless to say,
things don't go exactly as he planned.
Damon's superb acting truly makes the film. As a stocky Midwesterner
with a cheesy moustache, Whitacre is, physically, the exact opposite of
Damon's action hero Jason Bourne. Rather, Whitacre is square and nerdy,
an intense player on the corporate battlefield, and prone to lying to
almost everyone. There is something terribly wrong with this dude, but
we are not sure what it is.
The real-life Whitacre has actually praised the film, and has even
accepted the fact that his ordeals at ADM were turned into a comedy. He
acknowledges that his conduct during that time was basically
ridiculous, therefore, conducive to being portrayed in a comic light.
In addition to Matt Damon's brilliance, The Informant! also features
smaller roles from comedians such as Tom Papa and Patton Oswalt.
However, it should be made clear that the comedy is extremely subtle. I
am sure that many viewers won't even recognize it as "funny". However,
I personally savored the deliciously uncomfortable feelings of almost
every scene, as this quietly manic executive gets himself in deeper and
The only thing I question about this film are the music and titles,
which evoke a cheesy 1970's feel. Sure, the goofy music helps turn a
potentially boring anti-trust investigation into a light-hearted and
wacky affair, however it comes across as anachronistic, considering the
events took place in the 1990's. But this is a very minor complaint,
outweighed by the amazing writing, acting and directing of this
exceptionally intelligent film.
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Big business, tiny ethics
When one watches this, two things come to mind. 1: It's entirely
unsurprising the economy is in the toilet when giant corporations are
run by sneaky bastards who, when given the choice between making big
bucks and having any principles at all, will choose money 99% of the
And 2: what a fabulous actor Matt Damon has evolved into. If you're
familiar with his action parts, his pudgy and too smart for our own
good Mark Whitacre is quite a departure. This big wig in the food
industry wants to have it both ways. To believe his shameless bs and
also be the man in the white hat that helps blow the whistle to bring
down his corrupt bosses, who really aren't that different from him at
the end of the work day.
This story is as playful as it is troubling. Business in the year 2009
has revealed these weasels at the tops of the pyramids still want their
private jets, expensive retreats, outrageous bonuses and whatever else
they believe they are entitled to. They've tasted privilege and don't
want a fairer, more ethical playing field for all. This is really a
companion picture to Michael Moore's "Capitalism".
Steven Soderbergh, after making some heavy duty dramas recently, is
having some fun again and brought composer Marvin Hamlisch along, this
being his first score for the big screen in years. "The Informant" is
one of 2009's great delights..