At the agricultural business giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) there was a different way of doing business, where prices of products were fixed with competitors in order to make the companies hundreds of millions and the public was none the wiser. This is the simplified story of the “The Informant!” but still unfortunately it proves too much for the film to handle.
The newest film from director Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s” films and “Erin Brockovich”) starring Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, an up-and-coming executive at the company who decides that its policies are unjust.
He is also under pressure from his wife so he turns informer for the FBI.
The problems the movie suffers from are too much for the capable cast to overcome.
Scott Bakula (mostly known for his TV work in Star Trek “Enterprise” and the early 90’s “Quantum Leap”) co-stars as FBI agent Brian Shepard. He gets support from a slew of easily recognizable comics from “The Daily Show” and “Comedy Central Presents” whom fill their roles wonderfully, but they don’t have much comedy to work with.
The ensemble cast provide moments of hope in the film but the audience is soon underwhelemed because there aren’t enough laughs to go around.
Damon portrays “Corkey” Whitacre, and he is one of the reasons the movie that does not falter under the frantic pace or the disjointed narrative Soderbergh brings to the screen.
From Damon’s interactions with Bakula to the frequent voice overs that give insight into Whitacre’s mind (though perhaps far too frequently,) it is evident that Damon really understands the man.
His evolution through 12 years worth of story is impressive as he always sells whatever he’s given.
It also helps that he looks the part and that he is a fascinating character to watch even when the rest of the project lets him down.
Issues abound when the story decides to teach the audiences briefly about price fixing and a period of gathering information with trials that span from 1991 until 2002.
It is half way through the 108 minute film that it becomes evident Mark Whitacre is not the man originally billed to the audience.
Neither is the movie, as it switches from a capable comedy to a sad tale of a chronic liar with bi-polar disorder.
It is the abrupt shift in the movie as Damon slides from heroic informer to enemy embezzler that seems so sudden as the editing and story depict a naive though harmless character, someone who just got caught in an unfortunate spot to an unlikable man.
Perhaps it is the 11 years of recording audio and video and interactions with the FBI, the stress on a family in the midwest but Soderbergh manages to lose his actors and the aim of “The Informant!” somewhere in the middle before the credits roll.
Kory Dench can be reached at KD608724@wcupa.edu.