Damon/Soderbergh’s kitschy ‘Informant’

Tom Andrew

Matt Damon may have won an Oscar at a young age for his participation in Good Will Hunting, but here in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant,” someone should have told him that it takes a lot more than gaining 30 pounds and growing a moustache to call yourself an actor.

“The Informant” is the true story of Archer Daniels Midlands (ADM) Vice President Mark Whitacre (aka Corky to his adoring wife Ginger, played by Two and a Half Men’s Melanie Lynskey) who becomes an FBI informant against the multimillion dollar company to show that they have been price fixing for years.

Agents Brian Shepard (played by Scott Bakula) and Robert Herndon (played by Talk Soups Joel McHale), convince Whitacre to be wired and taped for almost three years in order to give them evidence that ADM was indeed committing crimes. During that time Whitacre collected hundreds of hours of audio and video evidence from all over the country, as well as, with the help of unaware associates, embezzle over 11 million dollars that he deposited in many different accounts. Over those three years Whitacre lied to the FBI, his wife and to himself until all of it came crashing down when ADM was finally brought up on charges. It was then that Whitacre’s crimes were discovered as well.

“The Informant” is a tough film to take knowing it is a true story. Whitacre is portrayed to be a regular, well-meaning family man who just gets caught up in the windstorm and excitement of being a part of something so large that is consumes him. Even we, as the audience, think he is telling the truth until it starts to become clear that he isn’t. Later in the film we also find out that he is bipolar, which explains a lot of his choices but doesn’t make it any less wrong.

Damon, as mentioned earlier, put on 30 pounds, has a moustache and for at least the beginning of the film, seems to have a whiny Midwestern accent (which he loses two thirds of the way through the film). These choices don’t make you an actor, though if you add losing yourself in that character to that list it can. Damon fares well at the beginning of the film. He has ticks, mannerisms and vocal patterns down pretty well, but by the end of the film, he’s just Matt Damon, 30 pounds heavier.

Bakula, veteran of television, stage and film, hasn’t been seen in a long while on the big screen, and his turn as Brian Shepard, while not his best work, is strong and a welcome relief. As is his partner Joel McHale. The rest of the cast is well chosen and well performed much like most of Soderbergh’s films.

The interesting choice of a 60s hippie-like font tells us where we are, and the chosen hue of the films visual look is somewhat appealing even though the film takes place in the late 90s.

Soderbergh’s direction is swift and smooth, and he has given the films serious matter a comedic, black tone, along with a very kitschy soundtrack.