The Informant! Review: Mole-d Over
In most movies, FBI agents struggle to persuade their moles to ‘wear a wire’, but Mark Whitacre is one snitch who can’t wait to go undercover.
He even provides a running commentary for the listening investigators…
The Informant! is a dark and unconventional comedy which deals with one of the largest white collar crimes in US history, and it all revolves around one affably complicated man who unconsciously leads a bunch of hapless feds on a merry chase.
Consequently, as the movie progresses, “That’s it – I’ve told you everything,” becomes the line which gets the most laughs and most of the comic money-shots are provided by the exasperation of other cast members as Whitacre drops yet another bombshell.
Yet it is amusing rather than funny and at times the piece descends into the realm of character study.
Consequently, not everything that Steven Soderbergh tries here comes off, but he does achieve a moody, original and irreverent yarn which could easily have been fashioned into a gripping thriller – if the story wasn’t so bloody ridiculous.
Matt Damon is excellent as the man in question, he tickles the audience with his naive lack of foresight and his enthusiasm to enter the world of espionage is innocently endearing (he calls himself 0014, because he’s “twice as smart as James Bond”.)
Meanwhile, his comically light-hearted inner-monologue – which covers all manner of subjects from Michael Crichton to polar bears – begins to betray the fact that something weird is going on in that chubby head of his.
When a simple lie ends up in a routine FBI investigation, Whitacre, the vice-president of agri-industry giant ADM attempts to save himself by revealing red-hot information on the firm’s price fixing tactics.
The delighted federal agents are even more pleased when he agrees to harvest the evidence they need to convict the bosses responsible. Unfortunately for the bureau, Whitacre hasn’t been exactly honest with regard to his own actions and as the situation starts to unravel, chaos ensues.
This is a film with several twists, but ultimately it remains an intriguing character study, and from the outset, Matt Damon owns this role and plays this daydreamer to the hilt – his excitement at the prospect of being a ‘secret agent’ is particularly disarming.
Whitacre is bright and affable, yet also deceptively deluded. But the real beauty of Damon’s performance comes in the way he reveals the nature of his character gradually, deftly coaxing the audience towards realisation.