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The Informant!

February 10, 2013

directed by Steven Soderbergh, 2009

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Note: This review was part of a Sound on Sight staff list counting down the best films of Steven Soderbergh

Not only is The Informant! one of Soderbergh’s more underappreciated efforts, but it further validates the gypsy-like manner in which the director successfully skips across genres with his own singular panache. This entry in the Soderbergh’s filmography would mark the sixth time he and actor Matt Damon have collaborated, a partnership that undoubtedly reached its peak with this 2009 effort. Damon plays Marc Whitacre, a middle-aged upper management member of ADM, a lysine developing company which finds itself in the middle of price-fixing investigation due to Whitacre’s seemingly nonchalant stab at taking over the company at the prospect that his colleagues could find themselves behind bars. While the film’s based on real events, the script by Scott Z. Burns does its best to cheerfully dramatize the real story behind Damon’s Whitacre. Sporting a wispy mustache and an even more accomplished hair piece, Damon packed on the pounds to transform himself into the titular unreliable narrator. When he’s not piling lies on top of lies at an increasingly baffling rate, he takes time out to let the audience in on what’s stewing around on his fallible “every man” conscience: ruminations on polar bears, the role of corn in our lives, and the meaning of kugelschreiber (it means pen in German); and while this sort of innocent narration could easily come across as maddening, its attempt at whimsically humanizing its protagonist is deeply felt. As the fabrications and myriad of falsities continue to add up, only then is the genius of Damon’s performance truly revealed; we’re both disgusted and empathetic to his cause. Just as Scott Bakula’s FBI agent Shephard tells his superior, “You can’t get bogged down by the words, “just look at the actions,” it becomes clear that Whitacre can’t even control his own tornado of deceit. Even as it stands as one big lark, The Informant! couldn’t be any more relevant as it depicts corporate greed and the cost of being the hero. While Soderbergh’s run in the aughts will be remembered for his more prestigious efforts, the commercial oddness on display here represents the director at his most cunningly carefree.

Read the full list at Sound on Sight

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