In 1992 Mark Whitacre, the President of Bio-Product division of ADM (powerful Fortune 500 company), became the highest ranking executive EVER to turn whistle blower. For three years he helped the FBI gather evidence of a multinational conspiracy to control the price of lysine. As a result, US government collected hundreds of millions of dollars in fines from ADM and foreign corporations, followed by prison sentences for three executives. These are events in real life as well as the movie. However, according to the opening credits, the film is not intended as a documentary and does depart from real life facts... The final, cheeky line of the prologue: "So there!", gives us a hint that, though the topic and the consequences suffered by many in this story are somber, what we are about to see is meant to amuse and entertain, as well as educate...
As promised, the chuckles do come often, but their source is not your typical one liners. Matt Damon is Whitacre, an inspired choice for the role. His plump, mustachioed and toupeed character comes across so harmless and ordinary you never question why his actions go undetected; even as his concealed recording equipment loudly malfunctions during a covert multinational executive meeting! You laugh at the bewilderment of FBI agents and the DA's office as they are led by the nose by Whitacre's increasingly outlandish antics. One could say "The Informant!" has the educational quality of an Aesop's fable: blinded by their desire to swallow a tasty morsel (ADM), the agents cross their fingers and fail to run even the most basic checks on their informant; checks that would immediately reveal inconsistencies in his stories (such as the true nature of his parentage, for example).
The film is not perfect. Based on the way it was being advertised, I expected something in the same category as "The Pink Panther". In reality, one would not be wrong to describe it as a combination of "A Beautiful Mind", "The Insider", and "The Duck Soup" (Marx Brothers). Sadly, "The Informant!" never quite becomes as touching, thrilling and funny as those films were, respectively. The makers allow it to drag on a bit in the second half as Whitacre's behaviour becomes absurd. The logical explanation for it all arrives only after our initial keen interest has already begun to dissipate. I also hear some grumblings about the film's muted lighting. Since most of the action takes place in offices and hotels, I believe the lighting is true to reality. Anyone who has spent at least one work day in a cubicle, understands how oppressive that atmosphere can be. Despite these possible faults, Whitacre's story and Damon's performance make "The Informant!" worthy of at least one theater trip. Depending on your personal approach, you will see a funny thriller or... a thrilling comedy. Either way, expect to be entertained!
PS: BRAVO! to the filmmakers for sticking to a relatively modest budget ($21 mil)! I am sick of paying to see worthless films with budgets that could bankrupt the economy of a small country.