Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Informant!

Why Can't I Qualify For A Telephone-Shoe?!

Liar Liar, Pants on Fire! I was once told that only the truth can set one free, then again there's this thing about truth which is an entire can of worms as well. Anyway, with lies come bigger lies to cover previous ones, and before you know it, unless you're one heck of a skilled liar, it just snowballs until it gets out of control, and you wonder just how you might just break this circle should you come clean. Sort of.

Which brings us to Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!, where we follow the (mis)adventures of a company whistle blower, who acted in his own self, delusional interest in believing that confessing to the Feds his activity and what he intimately knows about his company's shenanigans in price-fixing, would absolve him of his guilt, and hey, fast track him to the CEO position as well, since he's wearing the white hat and with the good guys. But little does everyone know that Matt Damon's Mark Whitacre has some serious personal issues, which we gleefully laugh along with, until we realize that it is something that has potential to torpedo his credibility.

Matt Damon probably got everyone sit up and take notice with his action-hero persona in Jason Bourne in the Bourne trilogy of films, where his talk-less-kick-arse-more character had everyone heralding the era of shaky-camerawork in action films. Here, it seems that Soderbergh had plucked Damon from his Ocean's films, identifying that he can play low-key with aplomb, and does so as the lead protagonist in the film, without whom I believe this movie will fall flat.

Damon hides behind that thick moustache and paunch to bring out possibly one of his best roles in recent years highlighting some serious versatility so far unseen, punctuated by a quirky narrative complete with a very deliberate 80s feel in art direction. The film worked on a couple of levels, and while the trailer would like you to believe that Mark Whitacre was some kind of Johnny English or Maxwell Smart styled undercover spy buffoon, the character here is anything but and smarter than the trailer made it out to be. There's also no laugh out loud humour that it had suggested, but plenty of wry ones, thanks to some hilarious voiceovers reflecting Whitacre's thought process at that moment, that had topics ranging from anything under the sun, again tying in very closely to Whitacre's condition. One moment he's supposed to listen attentively to a plan, the next he's thinking aloud about cheap ties.

Alas the story did feel weighted as it dragged on for a wee bit too long, accentuating something which the audience would already know about by then, but just wanted to push it all a little further to the point of no return. Thanks to some excellent makeup, you'll get to see Damon like you've never seen him before, and that's basically what The Informant! is all about. A Matt Damon vehicle where he gets the chance to show that he's not just all action and no talk. Some insights into shady corporate deals with kickbacks, corruption and lack of corporate governance will appeal, and probably so would the stifling processes that the FBI, with Scott Bakula heading the cast, have to deal with a none too bright collaborator from within.

Not Soderbergh's best work, but one which adds gravitas to Matt Damon's filmography.

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