Monday, March 29, 2010


You talk too much

By Edward Copeland
As the saying goes, clothes make the man. It also can be said that in the case of some movies, an actor makes the film and that's the case of Matt Damon's hysterical performance in Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!

Based on a book which tells the true story of one Mark Whitacre, an executive for Archer Daniels Midland, who turns FBI informant to tell about an international price-fixing scheme, only things aren't as simple as they seem.

What makes The Informant! so unusual is that this isn't a film along the lines of a whistle-blower drama such as The Insider. No, Soderbergh and the screenplay by Scott Z. Burns have opted for a wild, comical approach to the material based on the character of Whitacre himself, an approach that would have likely fallen flat if not for Damon's acerbically funny performance as a deluded man who believes he's doing everything for the right reasons and also has the unfortunate habit of sharing most details of his work with anyone in his vicinity.

At first, it appears as if Whitacre's motives are pure, sparked by fear he'll be caught up in the malfeasance his company is committing, so he becomes very close to the FBI agents he's working with (Joel McHale and a spectacular Scott Bakula). Unfortunately for the FBI, while Mark likes to flap his lips a lot, he doesn't tell the right people the right things at the right time, namely that his cooperation is part of his insane plot to decapitate the top executives at ADM so he will be appointed head of the company. It doesn't occur to him that the board won't be eager to reward the man who gives the company a huge legal black eye.

Whitacre isn't completely dumb though: He's got a plan for that as well, when it's uncovered he's been secretly embezzling millions from the company for his own "severance" package should things go awry, but he thinks he's in the right there as well since what he's taken is a pittance to what is being ripped off in the price-fixing scheme.

All the performers do well, but it's Damon's remarkable turn that powers the movie and holds your attention. He gives a side-splittingly funny deadpan performance and it may well be the best he's ever given.

Soderbergh moves the action along swiftly and continues his reputation as the major director you simply can't define. The Informant! is the 20th feature film Soderbergh has made since he caught the film world's attention with sex, lies, and videotape in 1989 and you can't pigeonhole him in a genre or a style. He's made great films, awful films, experimental films and everything in between. He may be our most compulsive filmmaker. He just can't be stopped.

The Informant! certainly won't land in Soderbergh's greatest pile and there's nothing experimental about it, but Damon is so much fun, there are worse ways to spend an hour and 45 minutes.

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What did you think of the music (by Marvin Hamlisch)? A couple of people I spoke to thought it was obtrusive and overly zany, but I loved it.
I thought it fit the tone of the film quite nicely.
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