I’d like to preface the review you are about to read is just an opinion and that alone. Any and all instances of real life happenings are added for amusement. “So There”
It is always pleasurable to poke a little fun back at the production you are about to review. But, I must add a little background. A good friend once told me a great anecdote about one’s memory, my memory in particular, and thought it would be appropriate since this movie deals with one’s memory quite often. She said, “Your mind is like an iceberg and all your memories are penguins on that iceberg. When you get a new memory, an old penguin jumps off and the new one hops on. You though, don’t have an iceberg, you have a glacier and there are vast amounts of penguins piled on there. I don’t think they jump off but just get buried and pop out every now and then to say hi.” This film does just that by piling on so much information and situations that it’s like one of those penguins popping out just to fill you in.
Mark Whitacre is about to get dealt a hand in life that is partially brought on with images of his own grandeur and fueled by people around him not giving him the necessary help he needed to be better just in his own life. Steven Soderbergh (Oceans 11-13, Traffic) directs a good believable cast of Matt Damon (Oceans 11-13, The Good Shepherd) as Mark Whitacre, a corporate officer turned whistleblower for the FBI who acts like a secret agent, Scott Bakula (Men of a Certain Age, Quantum Leap) as Brain Shepard, the FBI agent handling the case, Joel McHale (Community) as Ben Herndon, Brain’s FBI partner, based on Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum) screenplay of Kurt Eichenwald’s book “The Informant!” based on a true story.
Mark Whitacre (Damon) is a PhD biochemist who became the highest level executive to ever turn whistleblower on a Fortune 500 company, ADM. ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) was in the agri-business where Whitacre was in charge of lysine production. It was here that Whitacre learned of how the top execs were working with foreign companies to price-fix the sale of lysine to reap in the millions of dollars of profit. At the same time though, Mark has a different agenda and is taking kickbacks from his own company as a “safety net”. What really intrigued me about this movie is how brilliant this man, Whitacre, really is. Granted it took 17 minutes just to let us know what the story was about, it makes more sense in the end and will also make the “penguins” story understandable. Throughout the film we hear Whitacre’s thoughts as monologues. It goes to show how he knew every little detail of what was happening around him, yet he couldn’t tell what consequences could happen either. This leads to the dilemma of the FBI as they were sending in a civilian with no formal training to be undercover for an undisclosed amount of time. Eventually everything comes out as Whitacre is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and the pressure of the investigation took its toll through the stories he kept spinning and not being able to back up or even keep straight.
Soderbergh’s choice to use the “head” talk of Whitacre to help drive the story was fun and inquisitive at times. To hear little anecdotes about fellow workers or products that his company is involved with to tying thoughts together and find connections between those thoughts and how they relate to a situation he is in. Damon delves deep to bring compassion to Whitacre, though you see the joy he takes to play a character in the 90’s and during the height of some of the films of the time like “The Firm”. Scott Bakula and Josh McHale playing the FBI agents that are Whitacre’s handlers do a good job of being the face of the government but yet still worried about what they are doing to this man. One role in particular that I feel was not touched on more yet seemed to have a big part of the story was played very well by Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures, Ever After) and is of Whitaker’s wife, Ginger. Talk about a woman who has a story of her own.
Included on “The Informant!” Blu ray is feature commentary with Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns as well as 4 deleted scenes. Now we all know that some scenes are cut from the final film. Some of these would have been nice to have seen since they were part of the trailer initially. In the movie when we first see Whitacre going to work ‘wired’ he narrates everything he is doing. It is quite a funny scene. It would have been fun to see this deleted scene that was in the trailer of FBI Agents Brian and Ben tell him he does not have to narrate everything. My favorite deleted scene is something that actually happened during the investigation where Whitacre in order to have some leverage, would were the ‘wired’ suits to have conversations with his own FBI handlers. It’s a fun scene and again would have added to the film in a good way.
“The Informant!” is an eclectic ride thru the investigation of a lifetime. It goes out to show that even though we have our own agendas in life we can always do the good deed. Just remember each event in your life has a consequence that may be good or bad. Either way we learn and grow. Now I can have that penguin go hide again.