Sunday, September 27, 2009

REVIEW: The Informant!...

There may not be a more interesting film maker than Steven Soderbergh.

Ranging from big budget ensemble fair like the three Ocean's films, to the minimilast masterpieces that are Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience, to the era/genre fests like The Good German, there are very few film makers with Soderbergh's range. There are even fewer with his distinct sense of style.

Which may have made this film as fantastic as it was.

The Informant! (and yes, everytime I say the title, I will be using that exclamation point. For added effect. It's like the difference between f*** you and f*** you! One is the trailer for Boondock Saints 2, and the other is GoodFellas) follows Mark Whitacre, who has worked for lysine developing company ADM for many years and has even found his way into upper management. But nothing has prepared him for the job he is about to undertake - being a spy for the FBI. Unwillingly pressured into working as an informant against the illegal price-fixing activities of his company, Whitacre gradually adopts the idea that he's a true secret agent. But as his incessant lies keep piling up, his world begins crashing down around him.

The discussion of this film must start and stop with the man behind the camera.

The true star of this film is Steven Soderbergh and his complete nailing of the time period. Seeing Soderbergh and his crew at work here is like watching a surgeon cut open a patient, only instead of a knife, he uses a carphone and using the RED One camera to record it. Along with the work of Doug Meerdink who did the production design, this film is one of the most visually stunning you will see at your multiplex. I feel like the visual style is meant to simply there to avert the eyes from what is going on on screen, because what is going on around the innerworkings of Soderbergh's frame is, personally, far more interesting than what is the focus of it.

The acting in this film is quite superb, with the lead performance garnering some much deserved buzz. Matt Damon, plays the lead, Mark Whitacre, who continues to weave himself deeper into a web of lies, falty hair pieces, and ultimatley, a 9 year jail sentence (Spoiler! For a true story). He's insanely charismatic, and you can't help but fall in love with him, even though the majority of the film sees him lying through his teeth. The rest of the cast is also fantastic, seeing amazing performances (albeit some small ones) from Scott Bakula, Paul F. Thompkins, and Melanie Lynskey. The only little hole I thought there was was Joel McHale, who was really great in the role, but wasn't given nearly the amount of time that he should have been to really show off his talents. This is easily one of the most entertaining films I've seen in a long time. However, when it misses, it misses like a Lions quarterback.

The film really begins with a great momentum, and then as the film progresses, it really begins to slow down, and the end is beyond anticlimactic. The film left me wondering how Soderbergh shot the film, instead of what happened to this character. The film, mainly Matt Damon, is really funny, but I still found myself sort of disengaged from the story as a whole. I never truly connected to what was going on in the film, and the film would have been rather turgid if it wasn't for Matt Damon and his really comical performance. The first two acts are really engaging and interesting, primarily because Matt Damon is continually digging himself into a hole, yet when we have all the falling action, the final act really just lies there in the lawyer jargon filled mud. It could have been a really powerful film, one that would shake a CEO to it's core, if it would have taken the cast and crew, and tried to make a Michael Clayton style film. While we got a funny comedic romp, the subject matter called for something more.

That is the true failure of this film. The film is based on a book written by Kurt Eichenwald, which is a much more serious, almost procedural. It is a true story, and is a tale of the highest-ranking executive to ever expose corporate corruption in U.S history, and instead of an almost State of Play style film, similar in style to Michael Clayton (just set in a warmer frame), we get this '70's-'80's style comedy romp, which instead of leaving me caring about the characters, it left me caring about how I need to sell crack to buy me a RED One Camera, to make a better film.

All in all, the film isn't bad. It's actually quite entertaining, albeit only visually, and it features a really funny performance from Matt Damon. It's not great, not nearly as good as The Girlfriend Experience, but it's a fine way to spend 2 hours. It's more upsetting knowing what could have been, given the source material. Read the book. Rent The Informant!


Go see something good!

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