Friday, September 18, 2009

The Informant!

Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!" is based on a true story, but if not for the elaborate title cards and retro sets I wouldn't be able to tell so. If it really stays inside the box of reality, it's an incredible plot. Also very hard to summarize. It involves Mark Whitacre, played by a puffed-out Matt Damon, who turns in some of his best work as a rich VP at a corn company called ADM. I'd be hard pressed to find a role where Damon is as in character as this, or as good.

Well, there's a mole in ADM giving info to a Japanese corn company. This development is a reference to the director's earlier work "Schizopolis," which you should know is a terrible film. Anyways, I can't describe what happens next because it's hard to follow, but a couple bends later, Whitacre is being wired by the FBI. He meets with an agent, Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula), a dull man who wants to get an inside look at ADM, since ADM is a shady company in the corn business. I think what the intention of the film is is to show how ridiculous and how twisting the plots were and how dull and how mundane office people are. No matter. To discuss too much of the plot would also to divulge too much information, to inform you, and I won't do that.

What I will describe are the film's qualities. The lighting and the set design capture the feeling of 90's office life quite well. They illuminate the dullness. So do the hilarious musings and meditations that Scott Z. Burns (co-writer of "The Bourne Ultimatum") supplies Whitacre, on bizarre TV shows, polar bears camouflaging, and other things. These were definitely the high points of this eccentric film. And the way that Damon delivers them is exactly on target. But the most accentuated bit is the music, which mimics 70's spy shows to funny but mostly overbearing effect.

That's how the film works: very good in smaller doses, but too much over the span of 108 minutes. I think a big flaw of the film is the last 30 minutes, where there's a drop in interest. I mean, it's what happened, but here it doesn't really help. All in all, Soderbergh does what he likes, and that is making silly films. He coaxes out of Damon a great deal, and I think it's notable. I would say "The Informant!" is a pretty humorous comedy of intrigue. I enjoyed it for the most part. Also for Damon's interesting work. But this is not an Oscar contender. B

1 comment:

Edrik said...

Just saw this last night, and I agree. Great film. I loved witnessing the slow devolution of Whitacre from an honest, trying-to-do-the-right-thing adoptee to a (perhaps) mentally ill but ambitious thief. I still can't quite understand his wife, though.