Seeing the trailer and premise for The Informant! (plus the tongue-in-cheek exclamation point), I expected Matt Damon’s character to be goofy and bumbling (Paul Blart: FBI snitch), but leave it to director Steven Soderbergh to pull off an interesting and thought-provoking character study laced with odd, retro humour. (Is it my imagination, or do the 1990s look like the 70s (or even the 50s) in Soderbergh’s hands?) Damon plays agri-business executive Mark Whitacre at first as a somewhat naive man with a possibly good heart, trying to come clean and help the FBI bust his own company for illegal price-fixing. Before long, though, we the audience along with his government handlers start to wonder what’s really going on with this guy.
The movie itself (though carrying a slightly subtler and less-slick version of they typical Soderbergh style — see the Ocean’s trilogy for a point of reference) is as difficult to pin down as Whitacre himself. You think you know what’s going on, but you really can’t be sure you’ve been given the facts (at least not the right ones). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not one of those twisty, jaw-dropping suspense films where everything you know is proven wrong in a quick flashback montage. Without too much spoilage, it’s difficult when your main character is not a reliable voice. Speaking of which, the most humourous element to this movie is Whitacre’s voiceovers. The way his mind takes the most trivial trains of thought at inappropriate times is so dead on to what so many of us do it’s bitterly funny. If you’re a Soderbergh fan, I think The Informant! is a nice addition to his collected works. If you’re a Damon fan, you’ll be surprised at his performance (not only because he shows an unexpected sense of humour, but despite the walrus-mustache, prosthetic nose, and extra weight, he plays Whitacre as an incredibly natural and lived-in cartoon character). (4 out of 5)