March 21, 2013

Right Things & Wrong Reasons: A Review of THE INFORMANT

Sometimes - just sometimes - you look at a person's behavior and wonder "What's the deal? Why is that person acting in such a way?" Most films, when portraying malicious or erratic behavior, attempt to place some kind of rational explanation for it; others just let the cameras roll and allow the character to act in their natural environment, providing no answers but plenty of interesting fodder for thought.

The Informant, released back in 2003, is one such film. You've probably seen the DVD in bargain bins everywhere, but it's worth picking up - it's much better than you think.

Directed by Steven Soderberg, The Informant features Matt Damon at Mark Whitacre, a biochemist at ADM who finds himself becoming a "whistleblower" to the FBI around price fixing. However, it's much more complicated than that - I'm not being coy to avoid spoilers; the fact is that from beginning to end, The Informant provides a variety of twists, turns, and surprise revelations where the viewer never really knows where the plot will turn. Yet, at the same time, there's a fascination with Whitacre, as Damon provides a performance that will lead you to ask yourself, "What is Whitacre's deal?"

There's no straightforward answer to that question, which makes it all the more appealing. (And yes, it's based on the book by Kurt Eichenwald)

But it's the supporting cast that really brings the film to live - most notably Scott Bakula and Joel McHale as a pair of FBI agents. Providing a double act worthy of Robert Holmes, the two provide an interesting counterpoint to Whitacre, providing not just an appropriate audience reaction but also a great commentary on how this particular situation becomes increasingly complicated. (So much, in fact, that I would support a Bakula guest appearance on Community). You also have to appreciate a film that has some smart, almost snarky, casting (think Tom Smothers as the head of ADM). It's a comedy that gets most of its humor from its leads (especially Damon) underplaying their roles - there's no scenery chewing in this film at all, and the direction is solid from beginning to end.

Sometimes, people do the right thing for the wrong reason....The Informant is one of those films that suggests that at times, some individuals do right and wrong things for seemingly no reason at all. And that can make for fascinating viewing.

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