The Informant!

Starring:  Matt Damon, Scott Bakula Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

I began watching The Informant! with the wrong impressions.  I thought it was mostly comedy, with a goofy corporate drone spilling the beans on illegal activities perpetrated by his employer and getting a kick out of playing secret agent man.

That's sort of what plays out in the movie, but it only scratches the surface.  It's like a half-truth, told to get you to pick up the bait…er film.  The whole thing is based on a true story – though once again, once the plot starts to unravel, you could probably say the movie is based on a pack of lies.

Mark Whitacre (played exceptionally well by Matt Damon) seems to be the accidental businessman.  He wears crazy ties to work, his mind always seems to be wandering (to a tie sale at Bachrach during an important meeting, for example) or pondering some tangent. He mentions at some point that he was a biochemist and pretty much fell into management as a way to advance. He eats dinner at home with his three kids and his wholesome, upper class June Cleaver-esque wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey).

When the FBI get involved in a possible extortion situation with an international contact (Whitacre is the 'messenger' as the extorted called him), Whitacre takes the opportunity to confide to Agent Shepard (Scott Bakula) that the company has been engaging in price fixing.  He's gone along with it to keep his job, but is an unwilling party.

After some  waffling about whether or not he really wants to participate (he tells the agents several times there's been no more price fixing, then admits it's still happening and he's ready to cooperate with them), Whitacre zealously accepts his role.

At several points in the movie, the naïve relish with which Whitacre believes he is the 'guy in the white hat' makes you pause and wonder how this guy with a PhD can be so stupid to think that after the dust clears from the price fixing case that he will still be an invaluable employee – perhaps even in line to be company president when the other top executives have been fired/jailed.

Price fixing is just the first layer though.  There is other funny business afoot, brought to light by the investigation.  And there the movie takes a completely different turn. Immediately after I watched The Informant! I did not like it.  Now it's had a little time to sink in, I believe it was ok. It does plot twist and reveal MUCH better than any of the trendy psychological thrillers (I'm looking at you, Black Swan).

If you don't like:

  • Corporate America
  • the Government
  • not having a clear distinction between the 'good guys' and the 'bad guys'

Take this movie out of the queue.

If you like:

  • Tales of greed and deceptions lighter than Wall Street but not as funny as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • seeing a garage full of European autos
  • movies where you're not sure what's really happening/true/etc.

Put it in the queue!

Written by Jennifer Venson