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A comical tale of an informant


Starring: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Bakula and Joel McHale.

Directed:  Steven Soderbergh.

Rated M (coarse language). 108 mins.

Reviewed by Fr Peter Malone MSC

IT would be very hard not to enjoy The Informant!

It is necessary to note the ! in the title – and to relish the initial disclaimer about truth and having to put events and characters together for fiction – ending with ‘so there’.

It is a great part for Matt Damon (older and heavier) as a biochemist who is an FBI informant about kickbacks, extortion threats and price-fixing conspiracies in a powerful company in Dakatur, Illinois, in the first half of the 1990s.

And the screenplay is very clever.  

Introducing us to Mark Whitacre (Damon), a somewhat buttoned up scientist who has become involved in marketing and management, we find he is a jovial and charming worker, father, with a model wife (Melanie Lynskey) and two adopted children (because that is the right thing to do).
The right thing is very important to him as he begins his two and a half years collaboration with two FBI agents (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale).

The other clever aspect of the screenplay is revealing Mark’s inner life and imagination through Damon’s ingenious voiceover – often distracted, patriotically ambitious in grandiose business dreams, liberally quoting TV series (real and imagined), articles and even Grisham’s The Firm, novel and movie.  

And all this is backed up by a delightfully jaunty Marvin Hamlisch score.

But…, you need to see the film for humorous disbelief as Mark’s story unfolds, infolds, crossfolds and overfolds.

In an era when US Capitalism (see Michael Moore’s Capitalism, a Love Story) and bogus finance practices are being explosed, this is a lightheartedly serious insight into efficiency and inefficiency, FBI investigations, the Justice Department and general gullibility.

This is Steven Soderbergh in Oceans 11, 12, 13 vein but less trivially so.

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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