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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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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
American Catholic Blog Touch can be an act of kindness when someone is dying. If you visit a sick person and find that you are at a loss for words, reach out and touch her hand. It will convey your care for her and can have a calming effect. It says to the person, “You are appreciated, you are cherished, and you are not alone.”

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