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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Informant!

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Matt Damon stars in a scene from the movie "The Informant."
The late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey might have particularly appreciated director Steven Soderbergh's diverting comedy "The Informant!" (Warner Bros.) because—to echo Harvey's famous tagline—this fact-based tale is all about "the rest of the story."

As adapted from journalist Kurt Eichenwald's 2000 book, "The Informant (A True Story)," Scott Z. Burns' script recounts the unlikely adventures of up-and-coming agribusiness executive Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon).

A veteran researcher for conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, as the film opens in the early 1990s, Whitaker is in charge of developing a new food additive called lysine. With the project stalled, Whitacre informs his colleagues that an insider at one of ADM's Japanese competitors has contacted him, offering, for the right payoff, to reveal the identity of the corporate spy who has been sabotaging the program.

To Whitacre's surprise -- his subsequent behavior raises the possibility that he has concocted the entire incident -- ADM's top brass invites the FBI to investigate, and Special Agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) is assigned to place a bug on Whitacre's home phone.

Cajoled by his wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey), Whitacre takes advantage of Shepard's presence to turn whistleblower, revealing that ADM has been involved in an international scheme to fix the price of lysine.

Supervised by Shepard and fellow agent Bob Herndon (Joel McHale), Whitacre goes undercover. But his eccentric delusions -- he dubs himself Agent 0014 on the grounds that he is "twice as smart as 007" -- continually complicate the investigation, while his reluctance to tell the whole truth leads to a series of jaw-dropping revelations.

Large-scale, real-life fraud may seem an incongruous subject for humor, and the film's treatment of both corporate and individual misdeeds may strike some as frivolous. Others may be put off by the fact that Whitacre's exaggerated self-image is at least in part attributable to bipolar disease. Yet the tone is never mean-spirited or condescending.

In fact, by his intense performance, both onscreen and via well-written stream-of-consciousness voiceovers that detail Whitacre's off-kilter outlook on life, Damon creates a curiously sympathetic egomaniac. And Lynskey shows equal dedication as longsuffering Ginger, who stands by her man but also applies moral pressure when it's most needed, making for a marriage that succeeds against the odds.

The film contains a few uses of profanity and some rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.




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Michael Giedroyc: A life of physical pain and mental torment didn’t prevent Michael Giedroyc from achieving holiness. 
<p>Born near Vilnius, Lithuania, Michael suffered from physical and permanent handicaps from birth. He was a dwarf who had the use of only one foot. Because of his delicate physical condition, his formal education was frequently interrupted. But over time, Michael showed special skills at metalwork. Working with bronze and silver, he created sacred vessels, including chalices.</p><p>He traveled to Kraków, Poland, where he joined the Augustinians. He received permission to live the life of a hermit in a cell adjoining the monastery. There Michael spent his days in prayer, fasted and abstained from all meat and lived to an old age. Though he knew the meaning of suffering throughout his years, his rich spiritual life brought him consolation. Michael’s long life ended in 1485 in Kraków.</p><p>Five hundred years later, Pope John Paul II visited the city and spoke to the faculty of the Pontifical Academy of Theology. The 15th century in Kraków, the pope said, was “the century of saints.” Among those he cited was Blessed Michael Giedroyc.</p> American Catholic Blog The French novelist Leon Bloy once said that there is only one tragedy in life: not to be a saint. It may be that God permits some suffering as the only way to wake someone from a dream of self-sufficiency and illusory happiness.

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