The Functional Hermit

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Hermit Cinema: The Informant!

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This Steven Soderbergh film is a hard one to wrap your head around. Comedy? Yes. Period piece? Check. Docu-drama? Yep. Given how odd the created reality is in this movie, it wouldn’t have felt all that surprising if the characters had broken into song and dance.

The last movie I reviewed suffered by not building adequate empathy for its lead character. Here you don’t have much empathy, either. But you’re just so perplexed by the motivations of lead character Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) that you can’t help but keep watching with the faint hope of finding some clue that sheds the outer layer of his onion revealing only the true core.

Allegedly based on real events, it’s the early 1990’s and Whitacre is an up-and-comer at Archer Daniels Midland, or ADM. His impressive rise up the ADM ladder and the scattered thoughts that fuel his consciousness make for a strange juxtaposition.

When one of his projects hits a snag, he invents a lie that becomes the precursor to thousands more. The more he lies the deeper hole he digs for himself and he keeps digging, seemingly intent on coming out clean on the other side. At first it seems he lies to better his prospects at the company but the lying, cheating and attention given to him by Special Agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) of the FBI become an addiction.¬†Whitacre feeds Shepard tales of corporate price fixing and payoffs. Shepard thinks he’s onto a major, major case.

Whitacre seems to believe many of the lies he comes up with, a fact that underscores his lack of grasp on any firm reality. Soon rules and morality become so bendable to Whitacre that he become unable to realize how devious his words and actions have become. He is doing the right thing. He’s the good guy. And he keeps repeating as much probably in an attempt to convince himself as much as anything else.

There’s no real point in going into the plot here because this movie is as much about how it’s done as it is about what happens. The period details are pitch perfect and the film is desaturated to give it that very sterile video-look of the time. Damon gives a committed performance; his rambling inner monologue is perhaps the most entertaining and illuminating part of the movie.

I honestly don’t know whether to recommend this movie or to suggest taking a pass. This is one of those movies that is going to hit every single person in a different way. It is entertaining. It is funny. But sitting through the whole film is like being trapped in a humorous yet awkward conversation for a couple of hours. There’s a strange discomfort that permeates from the beginning; by design, I would guess, and probably the intended result. The filmmakers play it straight the whole way through. Damon too. See what you think.

I give this movie a pretty confused B-plus.

Written by the bee dub

October 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

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