5-Word 365 #108 – The Informant!

I kept getting distracted writing this, as I was also watching Stone Cold Steve Austin’s opus The Condemned on cable. I don’t even think I could come up with five words about that flick. Luckily I don’t have to.

The Informant!

Damon in bad wig shocker!

The true(ish) story of legendary corporate whistle-blower Mark Whitacre, and his part in the undercover investigation of the monster food processing corporation Archer Daniels Midland’s involvement in an international lysine price fixing scam in the mid-90’s. No, wait! Come back!

In Steven Soderbergh’s follow-up to the low-key The Girlfriend Experience, he drafts his old Ocean’s compadre Matt Damon to take the lead role of Whitacre, the overweight, bespectacled and gloriously bewigged company VP. The role he was born to play? Could be. I’ll tell you this for nothing though: after just a couple of minutes I couldn’t even picture Jason Bourne anymore. He totally inhabits this middle-aged geezer in over his head, who doesn’t seem to realise where his reality ends and his fantasy begins. Scott Bakula is FBI agent Brian Shepard and Joel (Community) McHale is his partner Bob Herndon, and together they are Wyld Stallyns! Or maybe they’re Mark’s handlers and, eventually, his friends. Both are excellent, with McHale reminding me a lot of Timothy Olyphant as US Marshal Raylan Givens in Justified. There are actually a lot of comedians featured in the movie – such as Patton Oswalt, Thomas F Wilson and Rick Overton – all showing their skills in dramatic roles.

Pop quiz, hot-shot: You’re covertly recording a meeting to discuss price-fixing of a multi-purpose, agricultural by-product when your hidden tape recorder starts to malfunction. What do you do? What do you do?

The script is an adaptation by Scott Z. Burns (Contagion) of the non-fiction book by former New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald. While the book is straight-forward reportage of the events concerned, Burns’ screenplay turns the story into more of a black comedy with the addition of Whitacre’s first-person narration which becomes increasingly more manic as the situation spirals out of his control. Though set between 1991 and 1996, Soderbergh’s camerawork and in particular his intertitles evoke a more 60s-era caper/spy flick. The real hero of the film is unquestionably the great Marvin Hamlisch, whose score is the perfect match for Soderbergh’s stylistic choice. I could buy that soundtrack tomorrow and it would live quite happily in my iPod (other digital music players are available). It is only towards the end of the film when Whitacre’s bi-polar disorder is diagnosed that the score takes a break, so as not to be making light of the man’s genuine illness.

Your enjoyment of this flick will depend entirely on whether or not you can buy into the presentation of real dramatic events as a good giggle. As I see it, Soderbergh has merely taken hold of the inherent absurdity of the situation and ran with it. I dug it, but I’m strange that way.


  1. todayiwatchedamovie · April 18, 2012

    A Bill and Ted reference in your positive review of The Informant? Five words: Can you do no wrong?

    • Ryan McNeely · April 18, 2012

      Ha! Well, I liked Dirty Dancing. Does that count?

      • todayiwatchedamovie · April 18, 2012

        Well now you’ve put me in a corner with that revelation.

  2. Paragraph Film Reviews · April 18, 2012

    Watched this the other night on LoveFilm. Also liked it, but didn’t love it. For me it was a very interesting (almost unbelievable) true story that was just quirked up to 11. Did also enjoy the 60s TV Visuals, olde film hue effect and soundtrack.

    I feel we may genuinely be step-brothers after reading so many similar film choices and reviews. It’s freaking me out dawg!

  3. yaykisspurr · April 18, 2012

    The poster seems to support your opinions of the movie 🙂 Cheers!

  4. nevertooearlymp · May 4, 2012

    Great review. I remember liking this film a lot when I saw it, especially as Damon’s character got deeper and deeper into the different subterfuges and counter-subterfuges.

    Welcome to The LAMB, by the way! I hope you are finding everything ok and that everyone is treating you well over there.

    • Ryan McNeely · May 4, 2012

      Thanks. I haven’t really had the time to get involved as much as I would like to yet, but that should change soon enough

  5. Pingback: 5-Word 365 #345 – Contagion | 5-Word Movie Reviews

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