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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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Cyril and Methodius: Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, these two Greek brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers and patrons of the Slavic peoples. 
<p>After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a monk shortly before his death) refused the governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slavic-speaking population. Cyril withdrew to a monastery where his brother Methodius had become a monk after some years in a governmental post. </p><p>A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task. </p><p>Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then. </p><p>That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit. </p><p>Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release. </p><p>Because the Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated. </p><p>Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church. </p><p>Opposition continued after his death, and the work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of the brothers to Bulgaria, Bohemia and southern Poland. Patrons of Moravia, and specially venerated by Catholic Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Bulgarians, Cyril and Methodius are eminently fitted to guard the long-desired unity of East and West. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named them additional co-patrons of Europe (with Benedict).</p> American Catholic Blog This is the beauty of self-giving love: Men and women, driven by love, freely choose to give up their autonomy, to limit their freedom, by committing themselves to the good of the spouse. Love is so powerful that it impels them to want to surrender their will to their beloved in this profound way.

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