Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Informant[.]

I guess it was inevitable that my being in a program called Television-Radio-Film would eventually force me into partaking the three media listed. TV I have covered and radio I do regularly enough but I have fallen out of the film habit. The prof for my writing class starts every session with the question "seen any movies lately?" and everyone is expected to answer. How dare he, right? He also wants us to venture outside of our comfort zone every once in a while, but I'm not quite up to that point yet. I've got The Karate Kid on my TiVo and we're watching Deliverance in class next week, so I'm going to stay in my zone for the time being. This week's movie: The Informant!

Spoilers likely, so proceed with caution...

As you can see in the title of this post, I wasn't exactly wowed or whatever reaction the exclamation point was supposed to draw out of me. The story is about Mark Whitacre, a VP for agriculture supergiant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). The company is involved in a price fixing scheme involving corn and Whitacre decides to work for the FBI to bring down some of the higher-ups. At first he professes to be doing it for the good of the company and his soul, but eventually it is revealed that he is trying to oust his superiors so he can become CEO. Whitacre is a pathological liar and we soon learn that not only was he trying to perpetrate this bizarre usurpation but he had embezzled millions of dollars while under the FBI umbrella.

The story, which is based on true events, is interesting in an "I can't believe that this guy really did that" sort of way but it isn't a very cinematic story. The events are all based around verbal lies and FBI surveillance of business, neither of which really action based. Also, financial chicanery and price fixing are not the sexiest crimes -- particularly for those of us who only have a vague understanding of the concepts involved. The film reached a point where you finally understand that Whitacre is a schnook but then the movie goes on for another half hour. The story stops building and his inevitable comeuppance doesn't provide much of a payoff (particularly since Whitacre is now a COO for some other company after a brief hiatus in prison).

The film was directed by Steven Soderbergh, an auteur I just can't get behind. His choices tend to distract me more than engage me and this film is no exception. The camerawork was steady, as opposed to Traffic and The Limey (both of which made me seasick) which was refreshing. However, he chose to give the film a 60's motif despite the fact that the events took place between 1992 and 1995. I think he was going for homage to double agents, but it was giving me an Austin Powers vibe. My other major issue involved casting choices. Matt Damon was alright as Whitacre, but I'm not sure what he brought to the role that was distinct. Not good, not bad, just nothing special. The supporting cast was where I found more distraction. Joel McHale played an FBI agent working with Whitacre, Patton Oswald played an attorney, and Paul F. Tompkins played an attorney. I'm not sure what the deal was with all the stand-up comedians, particularly since they were all playing against type. My theory is that it is a commentary about framing reality with how you tell a story, but the analogy falls flat since the reality framed by this story is not particularly engaging.

This film strikes me as a product of timing -- riding the coattails of populist rage against the giants of corporate America (one of the previews was for Capitalism, Michael Moore's new film). However it is a whistleblower (sort of) who is trying to slay Goliath, not the lay person. The timing seems off and the story doesn't get much beyond the conversation point of "oh, really? You don't say?"

Have you seen The Informant!? What did you think?

1 comment:

miyaz said...

It was well captures story of adaptation and most of the movie fans do went on to see this movie all ready. Movie was based around the true facts and it does help many to understand a real prize faxing moments happening around the society. Good movie it was and the cast been so clever with the movie story. It was one of the good comedy drama I saw in recent and love it