I found "The Informant!" an entertaining but ultimately frustrating movie. By the end I didn't know what to make of this Mark Whitacre guy. Was he insane? Was he a compulsive liar? Was he just an egomaniac? I still have no idea. Maybe he was a little of all three.
"The Informant!" starts off with a disclaimer that some of the characters are composites and the dialog dramatized. It finishes by saying, "So there." That gives you a hint on the tone that it's going to deal with serious stuff but not too seriously.
The story is based on a book that is based on a true story. So there. It's about Mark Whitacre, an executive at Archer, Daniels, Midland, who make food additives and other products. If you've seen "Meet the Press" or such shows you might have seen an ad for ADM. Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon with a cheesy mustache and bad hair piece) is in charge of something called lysene that is added to chicken, shrimp, and other products to make them bigger. If we can believe anything he says then he was a former biochemist for the company working in Germany before transferring to headquarters in Illinois, where he and his wife are building stables and own a Porsche and Ferrari, pretty expensive stuff for a guy making $350,000 a year.
Whitacre is having a problem with the lysene and tells his superiors that someone is sabotaging it. He also claims that a Japanese competitor is calling his house trying to offer information for money. ADM goes to the FBI, who send in agent Brian Shepherd (Scott Bakula) to tap Whitacre's phone. But then Whitacre pulls Shepherd aside to tell him about a global price-fixing scheme among ADM and its competitors.
Soon Shepherd and another agent (Joel McHale of "The Soup" and the new show "Community" on NBC at 9:30 Thursdays--shameless plug!) are soon having Whitacre wired up to get dirt on meetings between ADM execs and those of other companies around the world. After two and a half years the FBI finally takes ADM down and declares Whitacre a hero.
End of the story, right? Nope. Because while he was informing to the FBI, Whitacre was involved with his own schemes. This explains how he was able to afford that stable, fancy cars, and large house. It becomes a web of lies that leaves the FBI, Whitacre's own lawyers, and me wondering just what the hell this guy was thinking.
The movie is pretty good in that I have no complaints about Damon or any of the other actors. Though I wonder why guys like Joel McHale and other comedians were cast in serious roles. Seems like a waste to me. The only real complaint was the annoying music score with its "Austin Powers"-esque '60s music despite that the movie takes place in the 1990s. That at times seemed overbearing and irritating. I suppose there was some reason for it, maybe to recreate '60s cinema or something. Why you'd want to do that I have no idea.
My biggest complaint is what I said at the beginning. When all is said and done I'm not sure what conclusion to draw. Maybe the filmmakers, book's author, and everyone else involved--maybe including Whitacre himself--have no clue what really made this guy tick. So in the end it's an entertaining film but not an enlightening one. Still, as I Tweeted about it, it's probably the wackiest film about corporate crime that doesn't involve Michael Moore.
Recommended as a rental.
That is all.
(My score: **.5 stars)
(Metacritic score: 66/100)