Informant!, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -1 1/2

Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey. Offbeat Comedy. Written by Scott Z. Burns. Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

FILM SYNOPSIS: A rising star at conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Mark Whitacre suddenly turns whistleblower. Even as he exposes his company’s multi-national price-fixing conspiracy to the FBI, Whitacre envisions himself being hailed as a hero of the common man and handed a promotion. But before all that can happen, the FBI needs evidence, so Whitacre eagerly agrees to wear a wire and carry a hidden tape recorder in his briefcase, imagining himself as a kind of de facto secret agent. Unfortunately for the FBI, their lead witness hasn’t been quite so forthcoming about helping himself to the corporate coffers. Whitacre’s ever-changing account frustrates the agents and threatens the case against ADM as it becomes almost impossible to decipher what is real and what is the product of Whitacre’s rambling imagination. Based on the true story of the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in U.S. history.

PREVIEW REVIEW: The absurdist take on corporate shenanigans makes for fun viewing. Mr. Damon added on some poundage and a wig (there’s a great moment with that rug) and delivers an interesting, perhaps even award-worthy performance as the quirky character who fibs more than Jon Lovitz’s skilled SNL liar (“Yeah, that’s the ticket”).

Director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Oceans 11) keeps the momentum lively and silly, aided nicely by Marvin Hamlisch’s kitschy score. (Ever been in a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in the 1960s? The background music here is very reminiscent.) Nice performances by the entire cast, who can each best be described as a pro.

Perhaps not as amusing as The Player or as revealing as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, still it holds your attention and by film’s end, you feel like you’ve been entertained rather than pulverized (a feeling one gets with most of today’s action, horror or comedy genres). That said, some folks walked out. I wish I could have spoken to the five or six people who eventually walked out of the screening. I don’t know if it bored them or if they got tired of trying to follow the nonlinear narrative. Their early departure kind of surprised me, as I was thinking the movie was smartly written and involving. The film reveals a secret side of mankind that’s frightening. An amoral attitude that becomes delusional. People can justify their actions. The very actions they condemn in others.

Based on a true story, Whitacre sees himself as a villainized hero, such as in The Firm and The Insider, proof again that we are influenced by the movies. Trouble is, there are people who feel above the law. Their intelligence can make them feel superior to others and therefore justifies their feeling that they can do whatever they want in order to achieve their goals. Such is Mark Whitacre, as portrayed here. But to some extent, aren’t we all like that from time to time. We justify our own actions, hence our need to study and follow biblical teaching.

Alas, there is some crude and offensive language, including several misuses of God’s name and Christ’s (like nails on a chalkboard to me).

If you prefer a film without the profanity, try renting my DVD alternative: Our Man In Havana. Taken from a Graham Greene novel, the spy spoof stars Alec Guinness as a simple vacuum cleaner salesman recruited by the British secret service in Cuba. Unable to find out anything of an espionage nature, he begins making up phony details in order to keep his covert livelihood. One lie begets another. Not a great film, but Guinness always is. Good supporting cast includes Noel Coward, Ernie Kovacs, Ralph Richardson, and Maureen O’Hara. How bad could it be? Warning: no offensive language or sexual exploitation, just black & white cinematography.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros. Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: A crude conversation about a former female employee.

Obscene Language: Around 15 obscenities, mostly the f-bomb.

Profanity: Five or six profane uses of God’s name or Christ’s.

Violence: None

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Some drinking.

Other: None

Running Time: 108 minutes
Intended Audience: Older Teens and Adults

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