— by ROB COX —
“The Informant!” stars Matt Damon in the real-life story of Mark Whitacre, a high-level executive at ADM who, at his wife’s insistence, turned whistleblower in the early 1990s.
Damon’s quirky, nuanced performance paints Whitacre as a random-minded, bipolar scatterbrain. The highly-likeable Scott Bakula (from “Star Trek: Enterprise”) plays FBI agent Brian Shepard. Shepard and his partner, agent Robert Herndon (Joel McHale) become Whitacre’s unwitting handlers when Whitacre approaches them following the conclusion of an unrelated, baseless FBI probe of corporate spying against ADM.
Although story of “The Informant!” is compelling, but the film’s not nearly as entertaining as one might expect. The humor here seems obvious, but the laughs are far too sporadic.
This owes, in part, to director Steven Soderbergh’s pedantic pace. He keeps things slow, causing the audience to anticipate a narrative acceleration instead of the next laugh or plot development.
And Damon’s performance, though award-worthy, never reaches the comedic heights hinted at in the trailer. The funniest moments come during voice-overs by Damon that reflect Whitacre’s wandering thought patterns, with his mind spiraling from one wacky aside to the next. Those asides include contemplation of a fishing trip with his FBI handlers, the evolutionary disadvantages of polar bears having black noses and more.
Overall, I can’t overwhelmingly recommend for or against “The Informant!” But though the film boasts noteworthy performances and a number of scattered laughs, a high percentage of the audience — if not the majority — will likely find major disparities between the film as advertised and the film as presented.
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