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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey
DIRECTED BY
Steven Soderbergh
SCREENPLAY
Scott Burns
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
108 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Warner Brothers
 "The Informant!" Review 
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You're not going to believe "The Informant."

In fact, I'd venture a guess that there's almost no way that "The Informant!" is going to end up being the film you expect it to be.

A sister film to director Steven Soderbergh's "The Insider?"

Think again.

A cinematic cousin to Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can?"

Nah, not really.

Maybe it's a long lost relative of the spirited "The Sting?"

Nope.

"The Informant!," starring Matt Damon as real-life corporate whistle blower Mark Whitacre, is a beast all its own with an almost dizzying blend of corporate intrigue, verbal jousting, psycho-comedy, price fixing and Marvin Hamlisch.

Marvin Hamlisch?

Yes, even Marvin Hamlisch. Set to a lively Hamlisch score, "The Informant!" is the sort of film that may very well irritate and entertain you simultaneously,  mostly owing to the complex, thought-provoking and authentic performance from lead Matt Damon as Whitacre, a rising executive at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). Whitacre finds himself embroiled in messy corporate controversies involving a potential mole, global price-fixing and a few other secrets he will reveal along the way. For reasons virtually nobody can figure out, the $350,000 a year exec decides to turn informant and ends up hopping around the globe trapping executives from around the world making agreements that executives aren't supposed to be making.

Unfortunately for the FBI, Whitacre himself isn't quite what he seems either and soon his own compulsive lying, shady business practices and questionable ethics nearly sabotage the entire investigation.

While voice-over narration has become a convenient and often lazy filmmaking gimmick, in "The Informant!" it's the glue that holds the entire film together and allows Damon's performance to really take off. In virtually every scene, we the audience become an intimate observer of the emotional and intellectual ping pong going on inside Whitacre's mind and as the action all unfolds it becomes almost exhausting to keep track of everything going on in Whitacre's thought processes.

Damon gives a quietly revelatory performance as Whitacre, essentially turning him into an off-kilter blend of DiCaprio's Frank Abergnale and Stephen Root's Milton.

Weird combination?

You betcha.

Yet, as the minutes and hours unfold after the closing credits have rolled, the subtle brilliance of Damon's performance begins to take hold and you can't help but realize that he'd so convincingly become Whitacre that it's as if we the audience actually experienced the entire affair.

While "The Informant!" is undeniably Damon's film, Scott Bakula and Joel McHale perform quite ably as the FBI agents who trust Whitacre far too much and become not much more than rodeo wranglers trying to rein in his confessions, allegations, lies and maybe even delusions. The two avoid turning their respective agents into slapstick cartoon characters, instead allowing the dialogue's subtle comedy to come alive naturally.

While Damon's performance is brilliant and his ensemble of supporting actors perform quite nicely, there are moments in the film in which Soderbergh barely stays afloat with this uniquely created film and the way it tries to blend the jaunty Hamlisch score with the naturally manifested comedy and the inherently dramatic undertones inevitable in which a man's entire world seems to have been created based upon a disturbing intertwining of delusions, narcissism, mental illness, boredom, intellect and stupidity. The film's early scenes, during which Soderbergh essentially lays out the plot exposition, drags uncomfortably until a more complete picture of Whitacre is created and it becomes an adventure unto itself to figure out just exactly where this entire film is going.

Based upon a true story, almost, "The Informant!" is nicely shot in softer tones utilizing a variety of plain, ordinary hotels and motels, city streets and corporate cubicles. Soderbergh's beloved Red Camera, the latest rave in cinematography, nicely frames the entire film making it feel ordinary even as everything going on within it is quite extraordinary.

Funny, sad. Funny, sad.

Truly unbelievable.

Irritating. Exhausting. Entertaining.

You won't believe this film.

You shouldn't believe this film.

Believe me.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 
    The Official Rating Guideline
    • A+ to A: 4 Stars                
    • A- to B+: 3.5 Stars            
    • B: 3 Stars                         
    • B- to C+: 2.5 Stars           
    • C: 2 Stars
    • C- to D+: 1.5 Stars
    • D: 1 Star
    • D-: .5 Star
    • F: Zero Stars

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