Starring Matt Damon and Scott Bakula. Rated PG. Opens Friday, September 18, at the Park Theatre
If you’ve seen Food, Inc. or any other recent documentary about the evolving biohazard that is modern agribusiness, you’ll know something about corn-and-soy king company Archer Daniels Midland. That’s where the real-life subject of this almost shockingly breezy film worked in the early 1990s, until he helped take down the mega-corporation’s elaborate price-fixing scheme.
Watch the trailer for The Informant!.
The Informant! was directed by Steven Soderbergh, working from a complex script by Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum), as adapted from Kurt Eichenwald’s book, which lacked the sarcastic exclamation mark. Other early hints of ironic treatment (from a filmmaker who took corporate snitching more seriously in Erin Brockovich) include late-’60s typography and music in the same vein from old-schooler Marvin Hamlisch.
Whistle blower Mark Whitacre is played by a pudgy, mustachioed Matt Damon, who also offers a running off-screen commentary on his character’s actions, plans, and somewhat twisted obsessions. At first, the nerdy Midwesterner seems a real straight shooter, upset at corruption he encountered while climbing the company ladder. And the FBI agents played by Scott Bakula and Joel McHale can’t believe their luck in finding such a highly placed insider willing to wear wires and arrange videotaped meetings replete with charts and graft.
Eventually, though, even the feds begin to wonder about Whitacre’s fascination with Michael Crichton novels and spy movies. And they notice that the guy sure likes to talk. A lot.
Given all these messy complexities, I wish the tale delved deeper into the marriage with our odd hero’s childhood sweetheart, played by Melanie Lynskey. She got him started on this truth-telling kick, and it would be nice to know how she felt when the exclamation marks started hitting the fan. Of course, then there might not have been room for both Smothers Brothers, in small but smartly placed roles.