Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
100 Greatest Videos Games Of All Time
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Empire Visits The Hobbit's VFX Team
Nick Frost:
My Movie Life

The World's End star's pick of the flicks
4Music's Size Does Matter
Introducing your new favourite app
Empire Blogs
Cannes Film Festival

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Venice 09: The Informant!

Posted on Monday September 7, 2009, 11:10 by Damon Wise in Cannes Film Festival
Venice 09: The Informant!

I first had my hopes raised about The Informant! when I spoke to Steven Soderbergh last year. “I think a lot of people think, based on the subject matter, that it's going to be a Michael Mann film,” he told me. “But it's more Alexander Payne than Michael Mann.” It is indeed, with a sparky, cocktail-jazzy score and a big dash of Petulia-era Richard Lester melancholy. Because though it's set in the 90s midwest, it could easily be the 70s, a time explicitly evoked in the music and the typefaces that pop up throughout. It's an odd style choice, but it's a handy one that stops the film simply becoming another true-crime story. However, these quirky elements have already divided audiences here; and while the film played very well with the public, some of the critics haven't been so nice, labelling the film “smug” and “really kind of smarty-pants” (I'm not naming names!).

Most people agree, though, that the film is very much a triumph for Matt Damon, who really excels in the role of Mark Whitacre, a biochemist working with a company that produces corn derivatives used by food manufacturers. His company, ADM, is moving into developing lysine, a food additive, but the process is flawed and ADM is losing $7 million a month, causing Whitacre's bosses to pressurise him into coming up with a quick fix. Within days, Whitacre reveals that he has had a phone call from a mysterious Japanese contact, who tells him the problem is a result of industrial sabotage by a mole and that $10 million will secure both the name of the saboteur and a better way to make lysine. The chiefs at ADM flip out and call in the FBI, but this causes unexpected ructions when Whitcacre blurts out details of another crime being committed: ADM is involved in illegal price-fixing with its global rivals, to ensure that the market rate of lysine remains high.

This is the Michael Mann part of the movie, since it requires Whitacre to partner up with the FBI to incriminate his employers. I was expecting this to involve more clowning than it does, but Damon plays it relatively straight, and his goofiness is really quite charming in this respect. After some initial reluctance, Whitacre embraces his new role with real gusto, surreptitiously taping his colleagues and trying his best to be a good spook. The second half of the movie is more interesting, though, and just when Whitacre's ramblings threaten to drown the movie (most of it, delivered in voiceover, has nothing at all to do with what appears on screen), the film starts to reveal its true colours. It's not that there's a twist, as such, just that there's more to Whitacre than meets the eye.

Damon handles this transition perfectly, and it's to his credit that a role that could easily have been a one-dimensional caricature generates, in the final reel, a lot of sympathy, not only from us but from everyone he drags into the case: his lawyers, his wife and the long-suffering FBI agent (a great low-key performance by Scott Bakula) who persuaded him to blow the whistle in the first place. Having said that, I'm not sure how Soderbergh's film will play with mainstream crowds, and Warner Bros face an uphill struggle to position the film: it's a comedy that's not that funny, and a drama that's not too serious. But if you follow the human pathos there, The Informant! emerges as a likeable, even moving film that just can't help but defy convention – much like the starry-eyed Whitacre himself.

Login or register to comment.

Comments

1 jamie_speak
Posted on Monday September 7, 2009, 13:57
what was the last memorable film that s s made? the only reason he seems to get more work is he has a reliable bunch of quality actors that will work for him and pull his films up to a watchable level but this faith must surely be running dry? there are plenty of other directors with a fresher vision to give money to

2 dunstabledoug
Posted on Monday September 7, 2009, 16:33
I hope Warners don't tinker with it too much to make it more accessible or indeed, dumb it down. I like the sound of it as it is; DWs review makes it sound like an intriguing prospect. The trailer certainly seems to aspire to a comedy (and Matt Damon definitely has those chops), but I like the idea of it being something a little bit more than that. If Warners will have a dfficult job positioning the film then it sounds like the kind if film I want to see a la Charlie Wilson's War.

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (439)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Cannes 2011: The Line-Up
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: Mr Nobody
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: A Single Man
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: Survival Of The Dead
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: The Men Who Stare At Goats
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: The Informant!
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: The Horde
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: Oliver Stone's South Of The Border
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: Capitalism, A Love Story
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
By Damon Wise


RECENT COMMENTS

Cannes 2011: The Line-Up
"I advise everyone with dress problems to look (Www Voguebuybuy Com) It has the lat"  voguebuybuy
Read comment

Cannes 2011: The line-up
"Didn't even know Drive had been adapted. Been meaning to read it for ages. Yay"  jamesjewell1983
Read comment

Cannes 2011: The line-up
"Is there a reason why these articles cannot be shared on Facebook? Is it "  rgod
Read comment

Clint Eastwood's Changeling Is The Best Of The Festival So Far
"Test on IE"  DJH17
Read comment

Clint Eastwood's Changeling Is The Best Of The Festival So Far
"Test..."  DJH17
Read comment

Venice 09: The Bad Lieutenant!
"Just watched the film and thought it was great. Did not expect that ending that made the film so muc"  Zimbo
Read comment

Venice 09: The Bad Lieutenant!
"ian happy to read that nicholas cage is back on track. he has always been one of my favourite actors"  bellaphoenix
Read comment

Venice 09: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
"sounds like david lynch has directed most of the film.......in which case it should be AMAZING....ho"  FincherFan27
Read comment

Venice 09: A Single Man
"A Single Man sounds great! Knew nothing of it until now really, aside from Tom Ford being director, "  Acho
Read comment

Venice 09: Survival Of The Dead
"Is the picture from the film, or journalists struggling to get the right festival pass in the buildi"  Acho
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Picture Of The Day
12 comments

Picture Of The Day
11 comments

Cannes Day Eight: Basterds!
9 comments

Clint Eastwood's Changeling Is The Best Of The Festival So Far
7 comments

Picture Of The Day
6 comments

Cannes 2008: Epilogue
5 comments

Cannes Day Five: Antichrist!
5 comments

Venice 09: The Road
5 comments

First Look: Fernando Meirelles's Blindness
4 comments

Picture Of The Day
4 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (167)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Rogues Gallery: Powers Boothe
Sin City's Roark talks us through his most memorable baddies

Richard Attenborough: In Celebration
Saluting a man who made a lasting impact on cinema and beyond…

Exclusive: Luc Besson Talks Lucy
'There is no bullshit with Scarlett Johansson'

Video: Daniel Radcliffe Talks What If...
On Gordon Ramsay, swearing and date movies

The 24 Best Film-Related Ice Bucket Challenges
The viral craze that won’t quit takes in some of Hollywood’s finest

Who Shot First? The Complete List Of Star Wars Changes
An exhaustive chronology of George Lucas' post-release tinkering

Film Studies 101: A Film Buff's Guide To Movie Movements
Everything you need to know about cinema's key groups

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)