Director: Steven Soderbergh Release Date: 20 November Review by Adam Tobias I’m no Nostradamus, but you would think if someone were to make a movie about Mark Whitacre, a former executive at the agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland who in the 1990s turned whistle-blower, most people wouldn’t construct it as a comedy. Steven Soderbergh is not most people. With The Informant! , Soderbergh’s gamble at trying to show a comical side of corporate greed and price-fixing scandals doesn’t always pay off, however, he takes so many daring risks with his film that you should at least be able to appreciate it for its originality, even if you don’t find the obscure humor very funny. The Informant!, which is based on the 2000 novel by New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, is about a real life human being who did real life things, but right off the bat Soderbergh (Out of Sight, Traffic and the Ocean’s trilogy) and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum) let everyone know with an amusing title card that what you are about to watch should not be taken as the absolute truth. Soderbergh also makes a bold stylistic choice by infusing the film with a 1970s-style feel, right down to the cinematography and the horn- and whistle-filled score by composer Marvin Hamlisch. (While that decision is something that may lead to audiences being divided, for me it successfully added to the overall wackiness and oddity of the movie.) But Soderbergh’s gutsiest move of all is handing over the film’s narrator duties to the off the wall Whitacre, who is played to perfection by Matt Damon. Most of the comedy that works in The Informant! (not all of it does) comes from Whitacre’s voice-overs that shell out Jack Handey-esque deep thoughts such (“I like my hands. I think they are my favorite part of my body.”), and if it wasn’t for Damon’s impeccable performance the movie and his character might have turned out too absurd to handle. Make no mistake about it, Whitacre is one of the weirdest ducks to have ever walked the planet and some of his actions are so over the top and ridiculous that you may find yourself slapping your forehead in amazement. But Damon, who packed on 30 pounds for the role and wears steel-rimed glasses and a bushy mustache, flawlessly inhabits the goofy and naive Whitacre and makes you feel sympathy for him even though the oddball is a bigger habitual liar than the boy who cried wolf. Whitacre seemed to have it all as he climbed the ladder at ADM almost two decades ago, but for some reason he decided that enough was enough and went to the FBI to rat out his company for conspiring with its international competitors to fix the price of lysine. Needing more information to build a case against ADM, FBI agents Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) and Bob Herndon (The Soup host Joel McHale) enlist in Whitacre to help expose the whole scam, but soon after they do so they realize their unreliable informant is more trouble than he’s worth. Whitacre, of course, is giddy with excitement because he’s working undercover with the FBI (He calls himself Agent 0014 because he thinks he’s “twice as smart as 007.”), but in actuality he’s just a bumbling idiot who compromises the investigation by doing such things as consciously looking into hidden surveillance cameras and narrating every move he makes while wearing a wire. (“7:30 a.m. I am approaching the entrance to the office. Entrance breached.”) What the inept Whitacre reveals to his colleagues, attorneys and federal partners is never what it seems and as soon he starts spinning his web of lies The Informant! transforms into a muddled mess. Damon will undoubtedly keep you on your toes as Whitacre continually stretches the truth, but it really ends up making the narrative awfully complicated and repetitive and there were often times when I found myself as frustrated as the FBI agents and lawyers who are trying to get to the bottom of things. (Keep in mind the film is told from Whitacre’s unreliable point of view.) And further complicating matters is the fact that as the movie gets closer and closer to its conclusion, more and more authorities, businessmen and attorneys are introduced, which makes it extremely difficult to tell who is on what side. It’s also a head scratcher as to why Soderbergh chose to cast comedians like McHale, Patton Oswald, Tony Hale and the Smothers Brothers in these secondary roles and have them perform in such a deadpan manner. But maybe befuddling the audience by taking us on an insanely deceptive ride was exactly what Soderbergh was going for. In the end, I guess the exclamation point in The Informant! should be proof enough that Soderbergh’s intentions are anything but ordinary. Rating: 6/10