By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
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."
Matt Damon stars in a scene from the movie "The Informant."
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
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
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
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
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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