Starring: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Rick Overton
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Running Time: 108 mins
The Informant! is an American film about the true story of Mark Whitacre, an employee at an agricultural business giant who began informing on the company’s actions to the FBI during the early 1990s.
As much as this film really wants to make a quirky but still intriguing watch, it never works well enough. Yes, a good central performance from Matt Damon lends a degree of quirkiness, but the rest of the film is a far duller affair than he would have you believe. With a poorly-paced plot, frustrating cinematography, and an atmosphere that doesn’t balance comedy and drama particularly well, The Informant is more often than not an irritating and uninteresting watch.
I didn’t love this film, but if there is one part of it that I did really enjoy, then it was Matt Damon’s performance. Although Soderbergh’s intentions to make the whole film an ironic comedy-drama didn’t really work for me, he gives Damon the opportunity to shine in a very unorthodox role. As irritating as his character, Mark Whitacre, can be, he always lights up every scene, and gives the film the energy that its story is so lacking in.
And that’s where I was most frustrated with The Informant. Damon may have done a good job to keep me engaged in the film, but the story is set out very poorly from start to finish. Based on a true story, but apparently altered in some areas, The Informant spends too little time on explaining its somewhat complex situation.
Whilst Soderbergh tries hard to give the film its uniquely quirky (although ineffective) atmosphere, the story gets completely lost, and ends up hugely frustrating to follow throughout. There’s so much going on all the time, from Whitacre’s informing to the company’s dealings with Japanese businessmen and more, it’s difficult to follow what is a pretty complicated story in factual terms when it’s so difficult to take your focus off the quirky atmosphere.
Now, I keep saying that Soderbergh’s intended atmosphere doesn’t really work. That’s largely because it doesn’t balance comedy and drama well enough. Quirky comedy-dramas (even Wes Anderson films) manage to make the dramatic situation itself funny or preposterous. The Informant, on the other hand, has a dramatic situation, and tells it like a typical historical story, whilst adding in jokes here and there, making comical characters, but never making the events themselves bizarre and funny, and that’s where the film fell down most for me.
Overall, I wasn’t so impressed by The Informant. Matt Damon’s strong central performance does mean it’s an engaging watch, and the historical fact is at least interesting too, but Soderbergh’s attempts to create such a quirky comedy-drama atmosphere really don’t work, and nor does the screenplay, which becomes incredibly convoluted as the film moves along, and ends up making the film a very frustrating watch, so that’s why I’m giving this a 6.7.