With a misleading narrative, The Informant! serves up a seriocomic, tragic look at one man's endeavour to bring down the organization he suspected of price fixing. Mark Whitacre, skilfully played with tongue in cheek absurdity by Matt Damon, was a self delusional, self contradicting, wealth obsessed, executive at Archer Daniels Midland, a large agricultural products enterprise that was involved in the international price-fixing of lysine, an important component of the agriculture business. The film is less an exposť on criminal practices at the workplace and more a satire of both the paranoia genre of the 70's and countless legal thrillers.
With Steven Soderbergh's quite, unassuming presence behind the scenes as director and cinematographer, The Informant! is neither sensationalized nor grounded entirely in reality (though it is based on a true story). The first person internal monologues, where Whitacre talks to himself throughout the film about his mundane observations and reflections on life, may make you chuckle at first but you sense, hidden beneath, an undercurrent of contemporary corporate menace and a fight against personal demons, which slowly reveals itself by the third act. The film falters in sustaining viewer interest during this last leg however, because it becomes less interested in keeping up with its fly on the wall approach and delves deeper into the legal battle between Whitacre, ADM and the FBI, for whom Whitacre turned whistle blower. As the film dabbles in details it becomes difficult to keep up with who's suing who for what. Because this is not meant to be a thriller in the conventional sense (ala The Insider), the silly ludicrousness that worked in favour of the film starts to make all the more sense by this point, where it almost feels necessary.
While this is nothing more than Soderbergh's return to his Erin Brockovich style of storytelling, it is inventive because he mixes this up with the whimsy he perfected so well in his Ocean's trilogy bringing the film into the Coen Brother's territory. You get the distinct feeling that everyone is having far too much fun, especially Damon, who's wink wink, nudge nudge mannerism carries the entire film on his plump, slouched shoulders (the actor gained considerable weight for the role). Though slight entertainment, The Informant! nevertheless continues Soderbergh's distinctly different, iconoclastic approach to filmmaking. - Faizan Rashid