Opening 5 Nov 2009
In the 1990s Mark Whitacre is a vice president of the Arthur Daniels Midland company in Decatur, Illinois, USA. He lives in a nice home with his family, but this calm, middle-class life is not enough. Mark has visions of grandeur and sees himself as the future CEO. His visions grow into fantasies as well as realities of a different sort when he cooperates with the FBI. The company takes agricultural crops, e.g., corn and wheat, to transform into feed and chemicals for livestock. The FBI is interested in the company’s commercial additive, lysine, and illegal price fixing with Korean and Japanese companies. For three years Whitacre wears a wire to tape conversations; he helps videotape events and meets with government investigators. He vacillates between thinking up real and imagined clues, superficial loyalty to the company, and lining his own pockets with probably nine million dollars clandestinely stolen from ADM. In the end this highest-ranking whistle blower in the U.S. serves nine years in prison for his own crimes.
Based on the book of the same name by Kurt Eichenwald, The Informant was filmed near original locations in Illinois. Director Steven Soderbergh has made a practically unbelievable story plausible in spite of the twists and turns in the mind of Whitacre. You never know for sure if Soderbergh is serious about the plight of a possibly sick man, or mocks him, especially when the music takes light and flighty turns when the mood should be somber. I personally loved this music. The absolute star is Matt Damon, who plays Whitacre with such a sure feel for his role that an Oscar nomination is the least he can expect, if not the award itself. He is painfully, insecurely, insolently present in every frame. His character compares himself to Tom Cruise and his role in The Firm (1993); he says that he was adopted by rich parents who gave him everything. He is supported, even pushed, by his wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey), who expertly portrays an ambitious, stay-at-home housewife/mother, practically an accomplice in the crime. Coming from the U.S. Midwest myself, I could identify with much of the scenery and characters. Now I want to read the book. (Becky Tan)