The Informant! is the story about Mark Whitacre, the highest ranking executive in history to ever turn whistle blower on his own company. Price fixing is the game and Whitacre’s company ADM is in on it. Fixing prices all over the world means that ADM and the top brass meet with competitors outside of the US to agree on prices that they will all charge, so they all make money and don’t have to compete with one another. Whitacre (Matt Damon) sees something very wrong with this and his conscience won’t let it pass by.
Before the movie begins Steven Soderbergh, in his wisdom, offers up a disclaimer stating that names, places, characters and dialogue have been changed, and ends with “So there.” What a great way to start a film that’s supposed to be based in reality. First of all it gets all that “this is historically inaccurate” nonsense out of the way. Second, it sets the audience up perfectly for the type of movie and the type of humor they can expect. Similar to the way Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, (also opening this week) opens with the line “A film made by a lot of people.”
Damon has certainly gained quite a bit of weight to play this role. He’s aged his Bourne persona by 15 years. Whitacre is a nervous wreck who always seems to have the best intentions. He has an inner monologue that at times, doesn’t quite make sense, but it doesn’t matter because it’s hilarious (the inner monologue actually ends up making sense at the end). “Polar bears cover their noses before they pounce on a seal. How do polar bears know their noses are black? Did they look in the water one day, see their reflection and say, ‘Man, I’d be invisible if it wasn’t for that thing.’” These are the kinds of anecdotes were privy to while Whitacre is going about his business.
ADM is being investigated by the FBI. In order to not get caught up in the investigation, Whitacre turns informer, in an apparently honest attempt at just helping justice to be served. However, we soon find out that Whitacre, the golden boy of the FBI’s investigation, may be just a tad nutso. He acts like a child most of the time, but in a sophisticated way. He’s disillusioned into thinking that after the investigation he’ll be head of ADM because they’ll need someone new to run the company. He narrates each and every part of the tapes that he makes for the FBI. He’s eccentric, energetic, and just plain funny without trying to be.
Whitacre is the real mystery here, and as the movie unfolds the pieces start fitting together. It isn’t until the very end where you have the “Ah-ha!” moment where everything clicks. The Informant! is a perfectly crafted dark comedy by Soderbergh. It’s intriguing, interesting, and at its heart riotously funny.