“This Informant gives too much information”

When a filmmaker puts the entire weight of a project on the shoulders of one character the actor playing that role had better be able to bring the goods. Also the writing has to be such that your actor has the confidence to dive in and go for it. In the new crime comedy, The Informant!, director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s 11, Erin Brockovich) has such an actor at his disposal but a script that is too much of a good thing.

Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) is an early 90’s, straight laced, VP of an agricultural business company. He has a loving wife, a wonderful home and a passion for truth, justice and the American way. When he becomes the chief witness and informant for an FBI investigation into the company he works for he begins to take his role to new, hysterical levels. Soon the FBI is wondering how to corral this conservative crusader. When they discover that not everything is as it seems the twists become a rollercoaster ride and you better buckle up to keep up.

Though set in the 90’s this film has a total 70’s feel to it. The graphics, fonts and music give it a retro feel way before its time. Thanks in part to a score by Marvin Hamlisch (The Way We Were, The Sting, The Spy Who Loved Me) the film uses music that gives it a pep and styling that moves the story even at times with no dialogue. The film is inspired by a true story and Soderbergh uses the allotted time frame to make the plot, which spans several years, work. Full of witty dialogue, both aloud and inside Whitacre’s head, Damon gives us a character that is funny and at times outlandish. One that works nicely due to the maturity in which it is delivered. It would have been easy to make another bumbling Peter Sellers type character or something from the pages of Get Smart. But instead Soderbergh got smart and created a guy who could easily live next door or work down the hall. And Damon nails it.

The main issue I had with The Informant! was that it provided way too much information at the end. From the beginning the film moved at a steady pace that kept you engaged. There was a rhythm that was easy to follow. Then at the end they start overloading you with twists and turns that you have to really pay attention to in order to keep up. It took a sharp left turn that was in total contrast to the earlier part of the movie. When it was all over I felt like I had missed something vital and left with a disappointed aftertaste.

Rated R for language, The Informant! is in no way crude or repulsive but it does use adult expletives at will. I wanted to like this film more than I actually did. If I had to rate the first two thirds I would call it hilarious and inventive. But throw in the last part and I have to add confusing and over run. Damon is perfect and you could not ask for a better performance. He kept the comedy above the silly bar and made it work on a thinking level. I did laugh a lot and believe that most will enjoy this film. Once. Though I may rewatch it when it hits the DVD shelves I have for now stored it away in my forgettable vault of films. Best I can do is 3 out of 5 pocket protectors. So says Matt Mungle

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com) (9/15/09)

(3 out of 5)

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