The Informant! is a 2009 American biographical-crime comedy film directed by Steven Soderbergh. Written by Scott Z. Burns, the film stars Matt Damon as the titular informant named Mark Whitacre, as well as Scott Bakula, Joel McHale and Melanie Lynskey. It depicts Whitacre's involvement as a whistleblower in the lysine price-fixing conspiracy of the mid-1990s, based on the 2000 nonfiction book The Informant, by journalist Kurt Eichenwald.[2]

The Informant!
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Soderbergh
Screenplay byScott Z. Burns
Based onThe Informant
by Kurt Eichenwald
Produced byGregory Jacobs
Jennifer Fox
Michael Jaffe
Howard Braunstein
Kurt Eichenwald
CinematographyPeter Andrews
Edited byStephen Mirrione
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
Participant Media
Groundswell Productions
Section Eight
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • September 18, 2009 (2009-09-18)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$22 million[1]
Box office$41.8 million[1]

Released on September 18, 2009, The Informant! received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for Matt Damon's performance, although the film's comedic yet ironic tone received mixed reviews. The film was a commercial success, grossing $41.8 million on a $22 million budget.

Plot edit

Mark Whitacre, a rising star at the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) office in Decatur, Illinois, during the early 1990s, blows the whistle on the company’s price-fixing tactics at the urging of his wife Ginger.[3][4]

One night in November 1992, Whitacre confesses to FBI special agent Brian Shepard that ADM executives—including Whitacre himself—had routinely met with competitors to fix the price of lysine, an additive used in the commercial livestock industry. Whitacre secretly gathers hundreds of hours of video and audio over several years to present to the FBI.[3][5][6] He assists in gathering evidence by clandestinely taping the company’s activity in business meetings at various locations around the globe such as Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, and Hong Kong, eventually collecting enough evidence of collaboration and conspiracy to warrant a raid of ADM.

Whitacre’s good deed dovetails with his own major infractions, while his internal, secret struggle with bipolar disorder seems to take over his exploits.[3][7] Whitacre's meltdown results from the pressures of wearing a wire and organizing surveillance for the FBI for three years, instigated by Whitacre's reaction, in increasingly manic overlays, to various trivial magazine articles he reads.

In a stunning turn of events immediately following the covert portion of the case, headlines around the world report Whitacre had embezzled $9 million from his own company during the same period of time he was secretly working with the FBI and taping his co-workers, while simultaneously aiming to be elected as ADM CEO following the arrest and conviction of the remaining upper management members.[3] In the ensuing chaos, Whitacre appears to shift his trust and randomly destabilize his relationships with Special Agents Shepard and Herndon and numerous attorneys in the process.

Authorities at ADM begin investigating the forged papertrail Whitacre had built to cover his own deeds. After being confronted with evidence of his fraud, Whitacre's defensive claims begin to spiral out of control, including an accusation of assault and battery against Agent Shepard and the FBI, which had made a substantial move to distance their case from Whitacre entirely. Because of this major infraction and Whitacre’s bizarre behavior, he is sentenced to a prison term three times as long as that meted out to the white-collar criminals he helped to catch.[3]

In the epilogue, Agent Herndon visits Whitacre in prison as he videotapes a futile appeal to seek a presidential pardon. Overweight, balding and psychologically beaten after his years long ordeal, Whitacre is eventually released from prison, with Ginger waiting to greet him.

Cast edit

Production edit

In 2002, after completing Ocean's Eleven, Soderbergh announced his intent to adapt the book The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald, a former journalist for The New York Times. Scott Z. Burns wrote the script based on the book.[4]

Production began in May 2008 in Decatur, Illinois. Filming was also done at the former Whitacre mansion in Moweaqua, Illinois, a small town about 25 miles from Decatur, and at Illini Country Club in Springfield, Illinois. Some exterior shots were done in Mesa, Arizona, in November 2008. Other portions of the film were shot in the Coachella Valley, California.[8] The film was released on September 18, 2009. Damon gained 20–30 pounds for the role in order to look more like Whitacre.

Release edit

The film was released on September 18, 2009 in the United States.

Box office edit

The film opened at #2 behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with $10,545,000.[9] As of December 17, 2009, the film had grossed $33,316,821 domestically and $41,771,168 worldwide.[1]

In the United Kingdom, the film opened at #10 with £179,612 from the opening weekend.[10] It was the third highest new entry after A Serious Man and The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

Critical response edit

Rotten Tomatoes reported a 79% approval rating, based on 230 reviews with an average score of 6.8/10. The site's critics consensus states: "A charismatic turn by star Matt Damon and a consistently ironic tone boost this quietly funny satire about a corporate whistle-blower."[11] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100 based on reviews from 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C−" on an A+ to F scale.[13]

Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars, claiming "The Informant! is fascinating in the way it reveals two levels of events, not always visible to each other or to the audience."[14]

While giving the film the grade of a B, Entertainment Weekly noted that "Soderbergh has chosen to apply an attitude of arch whoopee, a greasy veneer of mirth over what is, no joke, a serious mess of malfeasance and mental instability," concluding, "Soderbergh ultimately made the choice to abandon interesting, dispassionate empathy for the more quick-fix payoff of amusement."[15]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, and, in response to critics of the film's comic tone, commented, "Laugh you will at The Informant!, but it's way too real to laugh off."[16][17] Leah Rozen of People magazine gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, saying, "[Damon]'s a hoot, and so is the movie."[18]

Todd McCarthy of Variety also praised Damon's performance, calling his interpretation of Whitacre, "The wacky little brother of Erin Brockovich" (whose life was also adapted by Soderbergh into a film).[19]

Accolades edit

The film received nominations for multiple awards, including a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for Matt Damon[20] as well as a nomination from the Detroit Film Critics Society.[21] Damon was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.[22]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c "The Informant! (2009)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Archived from the original on May 15, 2010. Retrieved September 8, 2010.
  2. ^ Webber, Susan (25 September 2000). "Tale of the Tapes". The Daily Deal. Aurora Advisors. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e Cain, Tim (6 April 2008). "Behind the inside man: Mark Whitacre, talks about 'The Informant,' his time in prison and moving forward". Herald & Review. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009.
  4. ^ a b Cain, Tim (19 March 2008). "Don't expect "Informant" hobnobbing". Herald & Review. Archived from the original on 11 July 2009.
  5. ^ Muirhead, Sarah (2 June 2008). "Whitacre paid ultimate price". Feedstuffs. Informa. pp. 1, 42, 43.
  6. ^ Sidhu, Roopam (23 July 2008). "Fresno company connected to Matt Damon movie" (Interview). CBS TV 47 Fresno. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014.
  7. ^ Editorial staff (16 May 2008). "What is "The Informant" about?". The Patriot Ledger. GateHouse Media. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008.
  8. ^ Palm Springs Visitors Center. "Coachella Valley Feature Film Production 1920–2011". Filming in Palm Springs. Palm Springs, CA. Archived from the original on October 1, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
  9. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results from September 18–21, 2009". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  10. ^ Reynolds, Simon (24 November 2009). "'New Moon' storms UK box office". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines. Archived from the original on 28 December 2009.
  11. ^ "The Informant! (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on 28 April 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Informant!, The (2009): Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 14 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  13. ^ Finke, Nikki (2009-09-20). "Sunny No. 1 For Family Film 'Meatballs'; Foul Weekend For Hollywood Stars' Flops". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  14. ^ Roger Ebert (17 September 2009). "The Informant!". Ebert Digital LLC. Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  15. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (9 October 2009). "The Informant!". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (17 September 2009). "The Informant!". Rolling Stone.
  17. ^ Travers, Peter" (October 1, 2009), "Shhh! Top Secret". Rolling Stone.. (1088):83
  18. ^ Rozen, Leah (28 September 2009). "Picks and Pans Main: Movies". People. Time.
  19. ^ McCarthy, Todd (7 September 2009). "The Informant!". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on 12 September 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  20. ^ Paul Gaita (30 November 2009). "2009 Satellite Awards nominees: Off-beat or Oscar predictor? | The Circuit: Awards and Festivals News". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 4 December 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
  21. ^ Serba, John (13 September 2009). "'Up in the Air,' 'Inglourious Basterds' lead Detroit Film Critics Society award nominees". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Archived from the original on 2009-12-15. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
  22. ^ "HFPA – Nominations and Winners". Golden Globe Awardss. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. 26 July 2010. Archived from the original on 11 March 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2010.

External links edit