February 15, 2010
The jaded exclamation point is used to gussy up mediocre prose - like a doily to a dreary cake, voice-over to a vanilla movie, or a toupee to Mark Whitacre's dubious self-esteem. Director Steven Soderbergh has resurrected the passé punctuation for his biopic about whistle blower Whitacre, a dull corporate honcho in need of a hobby, therapy or meds.
Whitacre (Matt Damon) was in real life an Ivy League PhD biochemist and vice-president of mega agri-industrial Archer Daniels Midland. The international conglomerate, whistled Whitacre, was fixing prices and somebody was tinkering with the HO2CCH(NH2)(CH2)4NH2, (translated from science-speak as lysine, an omnipresent chemically altered corn concoction found in processed food).
With an excessive obsession for James Bond and Mitch McDeere (specifically Tom Cruise in The Firm), Whitacre calls himself "Agent 0014." (He's Bond times two.) But his mien is anything but charismatic, emotive or exciting. No exclamatory persona here.
Snitch Whitacre is missing the corpus callosum to convert his considerable scientific smarts to an operable informer. When the screwball wires up to the F.B.I., he triggers the twists that charge this comedic exposé of corporate greed.
Steven should change the nom of his flick to the topsy-turvy Spanish inversion: ¡Informant!
In defense of Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns' use of the done-to-death voice-over, Whitacre's down-to-earth stream-of-conscious verbiage reveals the muddled mania and moxie germane to the mole's tale.
For the role, Damon dons a rug, grows a gut, bloats his nose, and elbows his way through an outstanding performance, that, for their audacious altered looks and good acting, won ladies Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron leading actor Academy Awards, (the former as Virginia Wolf in The Hours and the latter as killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster). For Damon's accomplishment, however, a 2009 Invictus - more athletic - supporting actor nomination will have to suffice.
The de-rigueur conversational commentary between the director Soderberg and writer Burns is a depressing way to pass 108 minutes. Who cares if the white layer of candy corn tastes the same as the orange? Or what it's made of. Maize, maybe. Lysine, for sure.
Generally, there was not much enlightening about movie making or making the movie. Mostly, honestly, it was corn and crap.
The intermittent exceptions are bits about the script, adapted from Kurt Eichenwald's book, The Informant: A True Story, and adopted from the court tapes.
Also of note was the casting coverage. The comic lead is played by serious actor Damon, with crossover comedians playing the supporting serious roles.
Where's Waldo? See how many funnymen you can find.
Another reason to skip the 1 ¾ hour Extras and treat yourself to a second viewing.
Studio: Warner Home Video
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Melanie Lynskey, Joel McHale, Rick Overton, Rusty Schwimmer, Thomas F. Wilson, Eddie Jemison, Lucas McHugh Carroll, Craig Ricci Shaynak, Tom Papa
Length: 108 minutes
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Dolby Digital TrueHD
English SDH, Spanish, French