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Steven Soderbergh
Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Lucas McHugh Carroll, Eddie Jemison, Rusty Schwimmer, Craig Ricci Shaynak, Tom Papa, Rick Overton
Writing Credits:
Scott Z. Burns, Kurt Eichenwald (book)

Based on a tattle-tale.

Mark Whitacre is secretly rolling tape during a meeting of corporate honchos who are illegally fixing the price of food additives. Meeting after meeting, Mark rolls tape after tape. He's sure the tapes will make him a U.S. hero. What went wrong?

Director Steven Soderbergh reteams with one of his Ocean's trilogy stars for a snappy skewering of big business based on the true story of the highest-ranking corporate whistle-blower in U.S. history. Matt Damon portrays Whitacre, whip-smart and immensely likable even as his schemes become increasingly untethered. Pay attention to the fun and intrigue of The Informant! and be informed!

Box Office:
$21 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.464 million on 2505 screens.
Domestic Gross
$33.313 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 2/23/2010

• Deleted Scenes
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Informant! (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 15, 2010)

Is it just me, or does it seem like Steven Soderbergh puts out a new movie every two months or so? That overstates his prolific nature, but Soderbergh does crank out quite a lot of films; 2009 saw the release of three features.

What makes Soderbergh’s work remarkable is the fact that all three of these films are quite different. Che offered a sprawling biopic – or two – while The Girlfriend Experience provided a smaller, more character-based glimpse into society. (By the way, I know Che debuted in 2008, but it didn’t get broad distribution until early 2009.)

Soderbergh went broader with The Informant!, the third of the bunch. Set in the early 1990s, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) claims that there’s a spy at the agricultural conglomerate where he works. When he alerts his bosses, they pull in the FBI to investigate.

Whitacre grasps this opportunity to become whistle-blower. He tells agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) about price-fixing activities in his industry. This submerges him into an investigation that may or may not focus on the truth; Whitacre’s revelations/stories change on a day by day basic as he fancies himself populist hero.

Essentially a spoof of 1970s dramas, Informant! becomes more than simple parody for one reason: it’s really based on actual incidents. Sure, the film starts with a disclaimer about historical liberties, but Fargo opens with a line that claims it’s based on real events, and that was a lie, so I thought Soderbergh was just messing with us.

Nope – Informant! sticks pretty closely to the truth. Sure, it includes some alterations and composites like most other flicks of this sort, but it gets much of the history correct. Granted, one assumes the real Whitacre wasn’t quite as big a boob as the movie’s version, but who knows?

Soderbergh’s decision to provide a comedic take on a serious real-life scandal proves effective. Even if Informant! had no connection to actual events, it’d still be a fun film. The added bite that comes from its “based on a true story” side makes it even more entertaining; it’s rather interesting to see material of this sort treated in such an irreverent way.

As I noted, I find it hard to believe the real Whitacre was as delusional and moronic as the movie’s version, but in Damon’s hands, he becomes a consistent delight. On the surface, Damon seems wrong for the part, as Whitacre feels more like a William H. Macy kind of character. Nonetheless, Damon delivers a solid performance. He captures the character’s vapidity and overwhelming sense of self-righteousness. He’s almost a Forrest Gump type; sure, he’s brighter, but his apparently total lack of cynicism and utter inability to view a world outside of himself makes him a simple soul.

Though a more complicated one than Gump because Whitacre constantly schemes. He’s a superficial man, as demonstrated by the internal commentary that accompanies the film. I often don’t like voiceover, but Informant! uses that technique to depict the character’s absolute absence of introspection. No matter what happens around him, he just thinks banal thoughts about trivia and superficial elements. The voiceover does a lot to tell us who Whitacre is.

The nature of Whitacre’s character also makes Informant! unusual because of the way it twists the usual “whistle-blower” drama. As in the Grisham tales he enjoys, Whitacre views himself as a major hero who will gain accolades for his role in the exposure of wrongdoing. He’s so out of touch that he believes he will still work at his company even after all the legal shenanigans.

While other movies depict whistle-blowers who act for the greater good, we see over and over that Whitacre does it for himself. He does everything for himself, as he constantly lies to make himself look better or come out on top. As played by Damon, Whitacre doesn’t expose a whit of cynicism; he really feels like the good guy who’s justified in everything he does, even when he steals millions of dollars.

Soderbergh’s choice to play the film as a comedy relates to the inherent absurdity of the actual situation. What kind of moron volunteers to actively cooperate with an FBI investigation while he also embezzles millions of dollars? A deluded moron, obviously, and in the face of Whitacre’s idiocy, Soderbergh has no choice but to play things for laughs.

And laughs he delivers, though the film occasionally hits things a little too on the nose. This especially relates to the film’s cartoony score. The music would be better suited for Funniest Home Videos footage of squirrels who fall out of trees or dogs who rollerskate; complete with kazoos, the score telegraphs the film’s comedy a bit too much. No, the movie didn’t need a truly serious soundtrack, but something less goofy would’ve been better.

Even with that misstep, though, The Informant! provides a good piece of entertainment. It turns real-life corporate drama into absurd comedy and does so with panache.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus D

The Informant! appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although many SD-DVD presentations from Warner Bros. look pretty iffy, this one fared surprisingly well.

Sharpness was usually fine. Wider shots could be a little soft, and I noticed a little blockiness. Nonetheless, most of the flick looked reasonably concise and accurate. I noticed only mild issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement remained minimal. The DVD presented no apparent print flaws, and artifacts like mosquito noise stayed minor.

Expect a restricted palette here. The movie went with a yellow-brown or orange-brown tone much of the time; only a few scenes opted for variations on this theme, though occasional instances of chilly blues appeared. Within those parameters, the colors were fine; they never excelled, but they worked for the movie. Blacks were pretty deep and firm, while shadows looked decent; they could be slightly muddy, but much of that stemmed from the intentionally bland production design. Overall, I felt this was a good presentation that narrowly fell below “B+” levels.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it was decidedly low-key. Music and dialogue dominated the film. The score showed nice stereo spread, but effects had little to do. The track featured minor environmental information and that was about it; if anything more memorable occurred, I didn’t notice it.

Not that this restricted scope was a bad thing, as the movie didn’t need auditory fireworks. At least quality was good. Speech appeared concise and crisp, without edginess or other problems. Music came across as bouncy, while effects demonstrated nice accuracy. They were so subdued that they never threatened to tax my system, but they worked fine. The flick’s restricted soundscape meant it featured an average mix, but it suited the material.

In terms of extras, we get four Deleted Scenes. These run a total of six minutes, 25 seconds and include “’You Don’t Really Need to Narrate the Tapes’” (0:57), “Leaf Blower at Night” (1:06), “Mark Makes Some Odd Requests of the FBI” (2:52) and “Mark Escorted Out of ADM Offices” (1:30). “Tapes” and “Requests” essentially provide more “shoe leather” and evidence of Whitacre’s delusional state; they’re interesting but I don’t think they would’ve added to the film. “Blower” and “Offices” tend to make Whitacre a bit sadder and more sympathetic, which means they wouldn’t have fit in the final flick; it fares best as absurd comedy.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Invictus, The Book of Eli, The Box, The Invention of Lying and Sherlock Holmes. No trailer for Informant! pops up here.

Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! often feels more like a Coen brothers product, but don’t interpret that as a slam on Soderbergh. It actually offers one of the director’s more engaging films in quite a while, as he drops his often-present pretensions to deliver a fun romp. The DVD provides fairly picture along with acceptable audio and some deleted scenes. This is a delightful piece of absurdity that at least merits a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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