Movie Review: The Informant! (2009)

Matt Damon in The Informant!
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

The trailers for Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! are a great example of why I do my best to avoid film marketing. While they don't necessarily spoil the film, they create an impression for a film you just don't get. Sure, there is a jaunty score and a bumbling performance by Matt Damon as the corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre, but it's more than that... while at the same time... it's not. Let me explain...

The Informant!
Grade: B-

The Informant!"The Informant!" is a Warner Bros. release, directed by Steven Soderbergh and is rated R for language. The running time is .

The cast includes Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Patton Oswalt, Eddie Jemison, Joel McHale, Andy Daly and Scott Adsit.

As much as I would love to place the blame solely on the marketing division at Warner Bros., I really can't. For starters, the trailers are fantastic and hopefully will get people into the theaters to watch this film over the other dogs opening this weekend. On top of that, there really isn't much of a way to sum up The Informant! in a short amount of time. This is a broad tale based on a true story that never really gets beyond its original conceit -- Mark Whitacre is a weird guy telling crazy stories. The trailers give you that, but what they don't relay is the fact things do get far more serious than they would lead you to believe.

Working for the agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Whitacre becomes the FBI's informant as he points out the company's multi-national price-fixing conspiracy. He's up for wearing a wire when necessary, playing to hidden cameras and doing what he believes is the right thing. The FBI, represented by a pair of agents played by Scott Bakula ("Quantum Leap") and Joel McHale ("The Soup"), believe they have stumbled on a gold mine of information, and they have. The only problem is trying to figure out where the truth ends and the lies begin.

Matt Damon does an excellent job with Whitacre, it's just too bad everything he does is so redundant. The Informant! is filled with plenty of great moments, one liners and bits of comedy, but none of these combine for an overall heartbeat. One major flaw is Marvin Hamlisch's playful score, that does well to mirror the tone of the trailers but becomes a mild distraction as the story evolves, if for no other reason than it ceases to fit. Bakula's rigid style of acting fits the part and McHale is also a great addition as he continues to grow out of his hosting duties on E!'s "The Soup."

The Informant! is a film I expected to absolutely love based on the trailers, but considering the most recent films from Steven Soderbergh it doesn't surprise me it merely scratched the surface of entertaining. There is no doubt he always gets the best out of his actors and films beautiful pictures, but his latest efforts have missed the mark.

As much as Soderbergh obviously loves the art of making movies, the art of storytelling seems to have been lost recently. I haven't seen his two low-budget outings -- Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience -- but like Che and The Good German the spark these films need to capture the audience continually seems to be missing.


More Movie Reviews

'Straight Outta Compton' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

'Mistress America' (2015) Movie ReviewB+

Mistress America (2015)

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' (2015) Movie ReviewB

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

'Cop Car' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Cop Car (2015)

More Reviews
  • Aimee

    I agree, nice article except I would give it a C. I don't see Matt Damons performance as Oscar worthy either. Even though he is bragging about it. Sorry. His voice is really annoying in the picture and good Lord the man has severe Schizophrenia or something. Matt Damon doesn't play that whole thing off very well at all. Matt acts like he's smoked a little something before each take to get him overly jumpy or high. I just find his performance really irritating. He acts like his performance is just really being forced. I just found it to be kinda scary.

  • Helgi

    Soderbergh is a strange filmmaker, to say the least. As stories his movies don´t flow; they are basically a combination of sketches. Sometimes it works, like in ERIN, mostly because the story was true and compelling and of the great acting of Julia Roberts and Albert Finney. More often they don´t. I was truely rooting for THE INFORMANT, hoping Soderbergh would now pull it off; the material is a goldmine. But Soderbergh seems to have a strong contempt for traditional storytelling. Just imagine what Billy Wilder would have done with it.

  • Brian Zitzelman

    Loved this from the first frame, just like I did Che. One of my favorite movies of 2009 easy.

  • The Check Spot

    (possible spoilers)

    I really enjoyed Matt Damon's performance. I think he really pulled off a solid character, one that you get roped into rooting for just like the FBI until you start to see that there isn't anything heroic or noble at all about his character. And comparing this character with Jason Bourne, well, you wouldn't believe the same person played both. I think that the trailers do make it look like a silly corporate coverup comedy instead of essentially a character study. And Soderbergh handles it perfectly, giving us slight glimpses at his madness with the voice overs and helping us understand the deep seated mental health issues of the character. The VO's reminded me a lot of A Beautiful Mind where a creative technique is used to get us to understand the issues of a mental health problem. I think people may be disappointed that it's not a Burn After Reading or even a Ocean's 11 type movie, but you're right, it's what will get people into theaters. I give the film a solid B+.

    Bonus: One of the funniest things I've seen this year is Joel McHale's reaction when Matt Damon mentions the kickbacks. That had me howling.

  • Paul L.

    Haven't seen THE INFORMANT and am inclined not to, based on the director's work I've seen recently. On paper it sounds a promising mix of THE INSIDER and BURN AFTER READING.

    But I agree with the reviews' final sentiments re: Soderbergh as director. I was disappointed with CHE (PART 1) and THE GOOD GERMAN. While beautifully acted and shot they left me feeling nothing for the characters. CHE was especially disappointing. He seems not to care whether the audience likes his movies or not.

    OUT OF SIGHT and TRAFFIC remain his best work in my view but those are down to cracking screenplays as opposed to his storytelling ability.

    Soderbergh has followed Clint Eastwood's path of making personal and commercial movies simultaneously; but without the latter's approach to character depth and concern for connecting with the audience. Soderbergh is a fantastic technical filmmaker but a cold fish where emotion is concerned.

  • iris s.

    This was one of the worst films I've seen in a long time. It dragged on, it was slow, kept waiting for the "juice" that never came. There were a few people who left the movie before it did I and my friend. We were surprised but it was simply not worth the price of admission. I would give it a C-. Not recommended.

  • Danny

    @iris s.: This is a movie that you really shouldn't leave before it ends.