Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Venice 2009: The Informant!

The exclamation mark is all-important, since it sets the tone for what is essentially The Insider by way of Richard Lester, a bright and breezy, and downright goofy examination of the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in US history, topped off with a poppy, retro score by the legendary Marvin Hamlisch.

In 1992, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) was a rising star at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland when he suddenly turned FBI whistleblower, wearing a wire and carrying a hidden tape recorder in his briefcase, in order to expose his company’s multi-national price-fixing conspiracy.

So far, so laudable. The problem being Whitacre wasn’t all he appeared to be. Delusional and dishonest, he may have seen himself as one of the good guys, a de facto secret agent (he dubs himself 0014 “because I’m twice as smart as James Bond”), yet wasn’t above sticking his hand in the corporate coffers, siphoning off $9.5 million to fund his lavish lifestyle.

What could have been a po-faced, serious examination of corporate greed becomes something altogether more fun and wry, with Soderbergh, visually and tonally, adopting a jaunty, absurdly comic style that brings to mind Peter Sellers and Richard Lester, while Damon, who gained 30lbs and sports an unflattering moustache, is a simply brilliant, his superbly comedic performance nailing the complicated inner workings of the unreliable and wildly imaginative Whitacre, but never losing sight of the man behind the lies.


J.D. said...

The Richard Lester comparison is an apt one considering Soderbergh wrote a book-length interview with Lester a few years ago. I can't wait to see this film. The trailers for it look hilarious! Not to mention it has a great cast.

Mark Salisbury said...

I've read that Lester/Soderbergh book a couple of times. It's great.