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Matt Damon
Melanie Lynskey
Thomas F Wilson.
Steven Soderbergh.
Running Time
108 minutes

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The Informant!
Matt Damon’s pants are on fire

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In the early ’90s, Mark Whitacre (Damon), a biochemist at an agrichemical firm, liaises with the FBI to root out a possible industrial spy — then reveals that his employers are involved in a price-fixing cartel. While gathering evidence, Mark gradually reveals his own embezzlement schemes.

The Informant!
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Everyone in this country is a victim of corporate crime by the time they finish breakfast,” declares a whistleblower as he tries hard to get the government (and audiences of this film) interested in financial shenanigans in the international wheat-extract business. As hot-button topics go, the price of lysine isn’t exactly the sort of thing Michael Crichton or John Grisham — personal heroes of informant-fantasist/till-dipper Mark Whitacre — would choose as the departure point for a paranoid thriller, which hints at why Steven Soderbergh takes a lighter approach than, say, Michael Mann did in The Insider. There are no besuited hitmen or suspicious one-car accidents here, though Whitacre is so exasperating that the temptation to have him whacked must have been almost irresistible. In most whistleblower stories, tension comes from investigators trying to get a compromised witness to talk — here, once the tap is on, the informant simply won’t shut up, digging deeper holes for everyone involved with each revelation or bizarre lie.

While ‘working undercover’ — i. e. wearing a wire or arranging a camera as he sits in on matey meetings about international price-fixing — Whitacre takes the code-name 0014 because he thinks he’s “twice as smart as James Bond”. However, despite a running stream-of-consciousness voiceover that suggests he’s genuinely convinced of his maverick heroism, he’s actually a bipolar schmuck. To play Whitacre, Matt Damon goes all-out to change his look, adopting a paunch, nerd ’tache and elaborate hairdo.

However, the star isn’t just physically disguised as he breaks brilliantly with anything he’s done in his career to play a man who looks in the mirror and convinces himself that he sees Jason Bourne. Indeed, Whitacre wishes so hard that he were cool and honourable that it takes a while for others to wonder about his statements — his unshakeable faith that his company will promote him when he’s seen several board members go to jail — or tell-tale signs of his own dubious activity, like the sports cars in his garage, and discern the dangerously deluded character they’re dealing with.

Soderbergh builds the film around the character and the performance, with a breezy Bond knock-off score from Marvin Hamlisch (of The Spy Who Loved Me fame) and a colourful, wry style. In fact, the film is almost too wound up in its lead’s world, short-changing those around him — especially the excellent Melanie Lynskey as Whitacre’s supportive wife, whose degree of complicity in his extravagant lies remains vague, though she gets one marvellous late-film moment as a single tear marks the point when she has to cry “enough”. Though Whitacre sees everyone as a stooge, Soderbergh has a knack for filling bit parts with welcome players who carry slightly naff but enduring bits of film history, making room for Clancy Brown (Highlander), Candy Clark (American Graffiti), Tom Wilson (Back To The Future) and Frank Welker (the current voice of Scooby-Doo).

It sets out to be less pompous than similar films, which inevitably means it feels less substantial. While amusing rather than hilarious, it ought to establish Matt Damon as a star character actor.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Average user rating for The Informant!
Empire Star Rating


it was ok. what was naff about Back to the Future? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ladybooger at 23:20, 03 January 2014 | Report This Post

"Who'd make up someone named Regina? it's the capital of Saskatchewan."

One of the most enjoyable at home viewing experiences I've had. Matt Damon is amazing and Steven Soderbergh is unstoppable. A truly wonderful film, don't miss it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jericho117 at 08:13, 22 November 2013 | Report This Post

"You gotta feel for the guy. He tells us the truth one day and wakes up the next with two lives instead of one."

Brilliantly written, beautifully acted and uniquely executed, The Informant! is a low-key comedy cum drama that holds your attention even as it moves you to laughter. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 15:22, 20 November 2013 | Report This Post

RE: The Informant!

I thought it was OK, but it wasn't as funny as it would like to be (the fact various people from 30 Rock, Arrested Development Eastbound and Down appear among the smaller roles makes me think that Soderbergh, Clooney & co. thought this was going to be a laff riot when they were planning it), and it also maybe went on a bit too long, I know Damon was supposed to be playing a mentally ill chronic bullshitter, but it was kind of ramming the point home repeatedly by the end of the film. ... More

Posted by Indio at 20:15, 07 August 2010 | Report This Post

Matt Damon is Great Im His New Biggest Fan

A really good film very ammusing and Matt Damon is just brilliant in this character I like Matt Damon but now im a big fan he is a star. Marc whitacre the charcter shares some ammusing little things about corporate crime that make you think. I also like the informant because it was a little period piece of the early 90's so we get to see the sets, locations, props which all had significance and helped create an interesting style to the film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 18:42, 20 May 2010 | Report This Post

Odd Informant

Quirky, odd little film. Very Soderbergh. Great work by Damon. Funny but never quite connects with the viewer. ... More

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Posted by lynnshep at 22:35, 29 March 2010 | Report This Post

Fascinating true story about a corporate whistleblower in 1980's America who it turned out was making the whole case up just to try and further his position in the company. Its played for laughs which is OK until half way through and then you realise you are laughing at someone who has severe mental problems. Despite that its a fantastic central performance from Matt Damon ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by duncan1964 at 09:30, 10 February 2010 | Report This Post


Turning his action star persona on its head, Damon is both amusing and tragic, physically embodying the role with admirable dedication. Bakula and McHale both offer fine support as the bemused Federal Agents - with some of their reactions ranking amongst the film's funniest - while the rest of the cast are thankfully aware of the tone their director was going for. Offbeat and amusing - once you have the sufficient patience. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 22:12, 27 November 2009 | Report This Post


Turning his action star persona on its head, Damon is both amusing and tragic, physically embodying the role with admirable dedication. Bakula and McHale both offer fine support as the bemused Federal Agents - with some of their reactions ranking amongst the film's funniest - while the rest of the cast are thankfully aware of the tone their director was going for. Offbeat and amusing - once you have the sufficient patience. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 22:12, 27 November 2009 | Report This Post

Spot on review

An odd little film, Damon is excellent as this bizarre bi-polar dude, there are no belly laughs, but I chuckled throughout. It gets a little testing towards the end as Marc's lies begin to reach critical mass, but it's the ending the film requires. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 11:45, 22 November 2009 | Report This Post


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