09 July 2011

Movies: The Informant!

The Informant! (2009) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1130080/

Drama based on a true story. Also a bit of a comedy, but a comedy that occurs naturally due to actions of folks and circumstance.

Mark Whitacre, a vice-president at agri-business giant Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) is in charge of a project where the bacteria that are supposed to be producing lysine are under performing. He reports to his superiors that he's been in contact with a Japanese competitor who informed him their lysine project is being sabotaged by a mole in the company, and for $10million he will tell them the name of the saboteur and give them a bacteria resistant to the virus that's causing the problems. ADM security calls in the FBI, who question Whitacre. During the meeting Whitacre leaks he knows that ADM has been meeting with competitors to illegally collude and fix prices in the market so that everyone can profit.  Whitacre becomes an informant for the FBI to collect evidence of the price fixing.

Stars Matt Damon as Whitacre, Scott Bacula as one of the FBI agents, and a whole bunch of recognizable comic actors in supporting roles and bit parts including Joel McHale and Patton Oswalt. Why so many comedic actors? Probably because they can deliver dramatic performances that are naturally nuanced by their comedic sensibilities without obviously leaning in and winking at the audience. And this story is rife with such natural comedy it plays straight to their performance strengths.  Great to good performances from all.

A couple years ago I watched a documentary about this very story. I initially avoided watching the film because I saw the documentary, but then I finally gave it a go. The film touched on pretty much all the details the documentary touched upon, it may have even included a few things the documentary didn't have. And yes- the true story is about as naturally funny as the film The Informant! seems to make it because of Whiteacre's actions and motivations. Overall I enjoyed the film. They did well with the material. They made no effort to make it funny, they let the story tell itself.

Same old same old drama based on a true story disclaimer that "if you're not into the dramas based on true stories blah blah blah" and "if you like 'em, you'll probably like this one".
I liked it, but I already knew the story.  Not especially a must-see film, but not a waste of time either. Worth watching if you're into films involving corporate shenanigans.

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