Harry rolls over for THE INFORMANT! But mainly because it is so damn brilliantly funny!
Sometimes you can tell the instant you see an actor in character. The second I saw that first image of Matt "the fat" Damon with that magnificent hair, glasses and a frickin' gut... I smiled. Upon seeing the trailer, I really started to get excited, and last night... shortly after the film began, I was in a fairly constant euphoric state.
Steven Soderbergh has had a truly remarkable year. His earlier effort, GIRL FRIEND EXPERIENCE, was a tremendous film on a subject matter that would cry exploitation, but instead he delivered a brilliant character study about a very smart, attractive girl who not only fools her clients, but most dangerously herself. He elicited a great performance from a Porn Star - so naturalistic, so heart aching that I really wondered why she was in porn, till I investigated... at length. And I found her quite... convincing... there as well. But there wasn't the slightest hint of what she did for Steven, which was amazing in entirely different ways.
Here - Soderbergh has crafted a film that feels a tad Billy Wilder - if only because Matt Damon seems to slightly be channeling the brilliant Jack Lemmon - and I can't help but think of Billy Wilder, when I think of the particular character that Jack Lemmon played so brilliantly for him, that Damon delivers so wonderfully.
Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre - an orphan that caught a lucky break when he was adopted by a couple that owned an amusement park. They got him into good schools where his stunning scholastic skills elevated him into the upper echelons of biochemists, and then into an executive position at the same CORN based company - and things get all sorts of insane.
You see - a rival Japanese company is apparently injecting a virus into something that's making these critters that eat something and then shit out money... well, they're just not shitting near enough money and it is costing Mark's company around $7 million a month. Mark was contacted by the puppetmaster behind the scheme to extort $12 million from his company. He takes the offer to his boss - his boss wants him to get the best deal possible, but on the other side of things... the boss brings in the FBI. And well... Mark has had a serious crisis of conscience regarding PRICE FIXING at the company and shares this with the FBI - thus setting up a multi-year investigation into a worldwide corn price-fixing nightmare robbing millions or billions from every human on the planet.
Matt's Mark is such a great guy. For most of the film he's Michael Moore's wet dream. In fact, you might want to not imagine that in too much detail, but it is dead on. The corporate fucks that do what these guys do absolutely deserve to be ratted on - but the problem is - nobody in the corporate environment is not guilty of some... stretching of legality. The film is a never-ending cycle of peeling back more and more about what Mr Whitacre has discovered.
Unlike similar films like CHINA SYNDROME or NORMA RAE or... well you know, the Whistleblower genre... Unlike those, this is the silliest dramatic clusterfuck of reality that you're likely to see. A satire? Not quite, the vast amount of humor comes from just the sheer disbelief at how crazy the various situations get.
Another great performance is given by Melanie Lynskey as Ginger Whitacre, Mark's wife. I'm never really sure of what she knows. She's kept out of so much of it, but then the looks between her and Matt... well they tell a lot or at the very least allude to something more than what they're telling us. There's such a genuine sense of caring from her character and by the time you get to the end... you just kinda have to love her. I'm sure you remember her great performance in HEAVENLY CREATURES - which was really the key performance in that great film. She's been a really busy lady recently, but in this - and hopefully in UP IN THE AIR - we'll be seeing a bit of a resurgence of her career into a bit more prominent work. She absolutely deserves it.
Scott Bakula also delivers a great performance as the FBI Special Agent that runs Matt's Mark. He's just so flabbergasted by what happens, just sitting back and gathering all this amazing info that Mark just drops on him - and he knows that he's going to get a great collar for this one.
Every level of this film is exceptional. Soderbergh's cinematography is beautiful to look at. He fetishizes the early 90's in terms of color - giving the film a HEART-WARMING glow that just makes you feel good, rather than oppressed.
However, above the script, the performances, the direction and the lush photography - I give the big horseshoe made of flowers and the champagne cup to Marvin Hamlisch for a BRILLIANT SCORE! Hamlisch doesn't really score films - not for a long time. We see him credited for his amazing songs that get sourced constantly by films. His score propels everything, making light out of what could have been just infuriating. His score is Mark Whitacre's rather layered soul.
I HIGHLY recommend this! Truly wonderful work, amongst Soderbergh's bests!