Wednesday, 10 March 2010

No.18 : The Informant!

You can almost see the scene; the marketing team for this movie have a hard job. It involves complex ideas of bribery and corruption and has no sex scenes or car chases - how can we convince the audience that this is in fact a jaunty comedy worth their seven quid? Yes, I’ve got it - stick an exclamation point on the end of the title, that’ll do it. We can also make the graphics a bit wacky and have a seemingly inappropriate kooky soundtrack - that’ll show them.

I actually quite enjoyed this film, but to call it a comedy would be stretching things and the whole films hangs on a single premise - Matt Damon lies a lot. Damon plays Mark Whitacre a bio-chemist at a chemical plant who has found himself in a corporate role. He develops products from corn and finds himself in a hard spot when a new strain of a chemical fails. He tells his boss that there is sabotage in place and he’s received a demand for $10 million for the name of the mole and the formula to save the new chemical.

Things go smoothly at first when the guy off ‘Quantum Leap’ is assigned to be his FBI handler in their investigation of the extortion attempt. Mark thinks that he’s being set up as the fall guy as he regularly calls Japan, the source of the ransom demands. He decides to become an informant against the company and spills the beans on all their schemes involving global price fixing.

For a while Mark is the hero and gets evidence of secret meetings and deals. Things start to go awry however when his stories start to get a bit far fetched and his own dealings come under scrutiny. Before long egg is on all the faces as Mark is exposed as an inveterate liar and the biggest crook at the table.

With the company and the FBI both looking a bit silly can Mark stay out of jail and keep his ill gotten gains which keep escalating in value as the film progresses?

That quality overview of the film may make it look a bit dry and to be honest it is. The set up is OK and I enjoyed the various companies and agencies all being as incompetent as each other. Matt Damon does a good job with the lying and we genuinely believe his character is a corporate crusader at first before his world of lies gradually unravels about him.

It’s probably all the ‘Bourne’ films on his resume but I wasn’t convinced that the 40 year old Damon was this flabby, balding lair with a bio-chemistry degree and nice taste in ties. He gives good value in the more ridiculous scenes but less so in the ones where he was being earnest and forthright. His get out clause is of course that his character is a liar so any unbelievable stuff was just that character trait bleeding out.

The film does well to maintain your interest through a lot of scenes that are just middle aged men talking around various tables. The running gag that the money embezzled went up every time it was mentioned was quite funny but apart from that there weren’t too many laughs. I did like Mark’s internal monologue which often had no bearing on the matter at hand but came into sharper focus as the lies tumbled down.

Further down the cast list it was nice to see Kurgan off ‘Highlander’ in a tie and Scott Bakula did OK as the hapless FBI agent. Damon’s wife was a bit thinly drawn and we never really got to the heart of her motivations - I guess it was keeping the nice house and that’s it.

The film opens with a caption saying they’ve changed stuff and ends with some others that explain what happened next. Seeing as you don’t know what’s was true and what wasn’t this was pretty pointless but overall I quite enjoyed this tale of lies, greed and more lies.

THE Tag Line : Believe Me It’s Not Bad 66%

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