Sunday, September 20, 2009

Review: The Informant!

Starring Matt Damon
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Now that the summer season is done with sequels, shoot-em-ups, and sequels to shoot-em-ups, it's finally time for the independent, edgier directors to step up to the plate with some new, original content (thank God). And who better to start the year with the man who does things as different as the overlooked Bubble and Che to the moneymakers like Out of Sight and Ocean's Eleven. Yes, Steven Soderbergh is keeping up his busy year with his latest comedy The Informant!


The film is inspired by the book with the same name minus the exclamation point and is about Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a vice-president working for a Fortune 500 Corn manufacturing company. While examining the numbers for the companies farms, Mark discovers a virus contaminating the corn and tries to tell about it but the corporate heads wont listen. Upon discovering the corn is being contaminated by a Japanese company, the company decides to call the FBI to investigate. This is one of those movies that's hard to discuss because it would give away a lot so not to spoil anything, the story goes into conspiracies left and right.

Soderbergh is ultimately going for a stylized dark comedy in this film: it's all done with this perky, 60's score complete with woodstock style titles. The whole film looks like it's set in the time period but is actually set during the mid-90's. Part of the reason for it, not to give too much away, is that Whitacre seems to be someone who loves revolves all his philosophies off movies, magazines, and television. It works well to put is in the world of Whitacre who seems to glamorize his world as a spy movie with him being the hero of the moment; just like the title proclaims, he's excited to be here. The cinematography overall is really memorable without throwing it in our faces while having a purpose to the character.

The Informant!
is a movie that reminds me of Fargo; its about a group of liars who exploit their customers who we're supposed to make fun of. It's a commentary of corruption that's funny but ultimately a sad look at our society; after you see it, you say to yourself "that was actually quite depressing."


I think my biggest issue I have with the movie is how it's told. The story and plot are both well executed and makes it's points about the examinations of the businesses and of the main character Whitacre; but it just feels like Whitacre himself isn't as engaging. I unfortunately think the problem is one thing: Matt Damon. He's certainly a great actor in other films and can be a fun character to watch but he just feels wrong for this material. Whitacre is a kind of arrogant doofus who thinks he's doing the right thing and basking in his own glory in his small little world, it could have made for great character study. There seems to be a lot to dig up with the character but Damon just doesn't seem to flesh out this character well enough; I really didn't buy him playing this kind of arrogant person.

It's really quite a shame too, The Informant! in it's core is a pretty great film but because Damon is so miscast, he cant really carry it all the way through. It's got some great craftsmanship and has an original, fun take on the corporate corruption genre but unfortunately collapses under it's own weight. It's certainly not a bad film, it's just a miscast film. Soderbergh so far has come out with three movies this year alone with The Girlfriend Experience and Che, one of my favorites of the year so far. Perhaps after all this work, he should take a vacation himself.

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