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The Informant Review

The Informant, rated R, is funny. The Informant is directed by Steven Soderbergh whose name you will recognize from the terrifically successful Ocean's movies, while writer Scott Z. Burns is memorable for the script of The Bourne Ultimatum.

The Informant, a true story about Mark Whitacre, isn't David Letterman-type funny, nor is it Jim Carey-type funny. It's the kind of funny that comes from the quirkiness of human nature that renders us all a tad bit foolish looking at times.

Mark Whitacre is no slouch! Mark, more affectionately known as "the informant," earned his Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Cornell University after receiving his Master's degree and B.S. from Ohio State University. Like I said, he is no slouch. But--like each of us at times show we are--he is full of human foibles that make The Informant so very funny--and humbling--because it could be thee.

Mark Whitacre, Ph.D., worked for Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) and was reluctant, to say the least, to participate in their illegal price fixing schemes and chemical additive projects. So he went to the FBI and became their informant. Ultimately, sometimes despite Mark's help, ADM was brought to justice--mostly--we still have a legacy of chemical laced foods....

The Informant, starring Matt Damon as you have not previously seen him, tells the tale of Mark's escapes--I mean dedicated actions--in assisting the FBI. The story includes the sometimes beguiled and incredulous support of his lovely wife, played by Melanie Lynskey, who at one point rightly tells Mark, a holder of a Ph.D., that he is being "completely illogical." You see the landscape of human foibles and intrinsic human irony here, don’t you? Oh, and just be glad that you were not once one of Mark Whitacre's attorneys, one of whom is played by Tony Hale of Arrested Development (TV).

If, while watching The Informant, you are ever tempted to think of a comparison with Damon's Jason Bourne character, that temptation will be quickly cast off when a long shot puts Whitacre in perspective when he is surrounded by FBI agents who tower over him--gone the commanding Damon of the Bourne series.

Some fear that Damon's Whitacre character might be a reprise of Linus (whom we all love, pick-pocket though he may be) from the Ocean's movies. But this is a fear to immediately dispel. Linus has his goofy moments, as does Mark, but the comparison between Damon's portrayals of Linus and Mark is as close as a comparison between David Letterman and Jay Leno--who both have their funny moments. In other words, Damon's characterization of Mark Whitacre is a far cry from being even remotely a reprise of Linus.

The same can be said of Soderbergh reprising the Ocean's movies, which (again) some fear is the case. True, the auteuristic mark of Soderbergh's directorial hand is all over The Informant but--who else's hand would you expect to see on a Soderbergh film? The similarities between the Ocean's movies and The Informant go no further than things like beautiful sets, great lighting (courtesy of Soderbergh himself as cinematographer Peter Andrews), and great timing.

It is certainly nice to see Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap (TV) fame--who has kept mostly to television work--as FBI Special Agent Brian Shephard. Shephard may have had a problem with redundancy, or he may have had a problem with his informant, as he very, very often says, "No. No, no, no, no," or "Oh no, oh no, oh no." Like I said, human foibles.

The Informant is a delightful movie from a true story about a man who must have a great sense of humor about himself, among other complementary traits, and is perfect for adults, as it is R rated, though non-adults will have to wait to catch it on DVD on their eighteenth birthdays.

Steven Soderbergh - Director (2009)
Scott Z. Burns - Writer
Kurt Eichenwald - Book Author - The Informant: A True Story
Matt Damon – Mark Whitacre
Lucas McHugh Carroll – Alexander Whitacre
Rusty Schwimmer – Liz Taylor
Melanie Lynskey – Ginger Whitacre
Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap; Enterprise - TV) – FBI Special Agent Brian Shephard
Tony Hale (Arrested Development - TV) – James Epstein

Dr. Whitacre earned a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Cornell University and holds Master’s and B.S. degrees from the Ohio State University. http://www.markwhitacre.com/

Buy The Informant: A True Story at Amazon, (A Movie Tie-In Edition)

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