Who Would Have Thought That Price Fixing Could Be So Damn Funny?
If Steven Soderbergh really, really wanted to, he could make movie after movie that raked in millions upon millions of dollars. Sure, he’s made some big movies to date (the overrated “Erin Brockovich” and “Ocean’s” flicks), but he intersperses them with some big time experimental movies. I mean…I dig odd movies and all…but I couldn’t even handle “Bubble“.
So that brings us to “The Informant”. The story of the biggest FBI whistleblower in United States history is in great hands as Soderbergh makes a price fixing scandal about an extremely goofy white dude darkly hilarious. The most amazing thing? At just under two hours, the story manages to pack in a ton of information without hitting information overload.
The movie follows Mark Whitacre, an employee of a lysene manufacturer with some hardcore mental issues. Not only does he completely invent a scheme in which he is being blackmailed by a Japanese competetitor, he is participating in one of the largest price fixing agreements in the history of business.
Mark’s company contacts the FBI regarding the alledged blackmail scandal and the FBI quite quickly discovers that Mark is completely full of it. Mark then turns around and throws his company under the bus regarding the price fixing. Initially, he plays it up as if he is a hero for doing what he is doing, but you will learn that Mark isn’t an angel here. Since this is all based on true events from almost twenty years ago, you can easily find what he did but you’re not going to hear it from me. Let’s just say that Mark managed to make numerous bank accounts grow large during his two-year stint as an FBI informant.
Movies based on true corporate crime events never sound exciting, much less funny. You won’t have many “The Hangover” laugh out loud moments, but you will definitely be very amused and, if you’re like me, grinning through the entire movie. You can hold Matt Damon the most responsible for that.
This is really the first time that Damon has tossed aside any vanity and played a regular, old schlub. He’s been great as Jason Bourne, Will Hunting, and even Tom Ripley, but he has never been this good. You would never believe that an actual human being could be as naive as Mark Whitacre if not for Damon. Whitacre is so happy to be involved in something that so many people are interested in that he doesn’t see the hole he digs for himself and Damon makes you buy into it.
The main highlights of this movie are the scenes that Damon shares with Scott Bakula and Joel McHale, who play the FBI agents assigned to the price fixing case. This is easily Bakula’s best acting of his career and McHale, who you would expect to his usual smart ass self, is all business. In fact, these two have to keep it together during Damon’s insane ramblings in order to not alienate or upset their star witness, no matter how nutty he is. Watching them repeatedly bite their tongues may be the main reason to see this movie.
Since the Oscars are taking the Emmy approach, there is no doubt that “The Informant” will get into the field of ten for Best Picture. Is there any chance it could win? Probably not. However, there is a very likely chance that not only will Matt Damon be nominated for Best Actor, he could win his first Academy Award…sans Ben Affleck.