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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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Fidelis of Sigmaringen: If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint's life. 
<p>Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed "the poor man's lawyer," Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor. </p><p>As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. During a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers. </p><p>He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions. </p><p>He was accused of opposing the peasants' national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God's hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed. </p><p>He was canonized in 1746. Fifteen years later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog Obedience means total surrender and wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. All the difficulties that come in our work are the result of disobedience.

 
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