"While this motion picture is based on real events, certain incidents and characters are composites, and dialogue has been dramatized. So there."
— (Opening disclaimer)
is a 2009 movie directed by Steven Soderbergh
and starring Matt Damon
. It is Based on a True Story
. The movie concerns itself with Mark Whitacre, an employee of ADM, a food production company. A probe into a possible sabotage turns Mark into a whistleblower for the FBI, as part of a multi-year investigation into worldwide price fixing. But Mark himself is hiding a couple of shocking secrets as well...
The film acts as a sort of counterpoint
to Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich
. While Brockovich
was a drama, Informant!
is more comedic in tone. While Brockovich was an intelligent Determinator
Whitacre is a foolish at best person and a compulsive liar. And while Brockovich's misdeeds after the events of the film
were left out, Whitacre is shown as an Unreliable Narrator who fits Stupid Evil to a T.
Unlike most films about this subject matter that are inspired by a true story, this is Played for Laughs
. So there.Marvin Hamlisch
's last theatrical film score before his death in 2012.SPOILER WARNING.
This movie contains examples of:
- Amoral Attorney: A number of these appear in the last thirty minutes of the film.
- Bad Liar: Mark is constantly guilty of this, especially audacious when his parents find out that he's been saying he's an orphan.
- Book Dumb: Inverted - Mark is extremely intelligent on paper, but in reality he's an utter moron.
- Brick Joke: The inner monologues come back with a vengeance. Also, the FBI agents admonish Whitacre for talking to the press about the investigation (which Whitacre still does). A few scenes later, the agents are talking to Ginger about Mark's well-being when one of the agents exasperatedly blurts out, "He's GOT to stop talking to people!"
- California Doubling: Averted. The entire film was filmed on location (and there are many locations, from small town Illinois and Indiana, ranging from the actual ADM headquarters and Whitacre's former house, to a brief scene in St. Louis and even scenes in Hawaii and Zurich, Switzerland).
- Chaotic Stupid: While he always believes that he's a Knight in Shining Armor kind of guy, the film shows Mark is this.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: This is a movie about them, and how they fixed the prices of high fructose corn syrup and other biochemicals. And Whitacre is probably worse than the lot of them.
- The Informant: Mark is an informant for two and a half years for the FBI. He claims to join them out of a guilty conscience about price fixing, except that it's really a haphazard cover for an attempted takeover of the company.
- Inner Monologue: Mark is constantly mentioning odd facts while other characters are talking. It's revealed to be what's going on in his head when his bipolar disorder and his habitual lying kicks in.
- Internal Reformist: Mark Whitaker starts the movie as a whistleblower. By the end of the movie his web of lies has become ridiculously tangled and as it turns out he had been embezzling money from the company for years. WHAT??
- Logical Fallacies: Even Mark's wife is dumbfounded on how Mark can believe he will run the company after whistleblowing on its price fixing. When he tries to rationale it, she simply responds, "That's completely illogical."
- Minsky Pickup: Used several times in the score, preceded by a different lead-in from the standard one.
- The '90s: The early Nineties — so early it's practically The '80s.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Current day employees of the ADM company received a formal letter at home urging them not to answer any questions regarding the subject matter of the movie, if they would receive any.
- The Reveal: Those odd inner monologues are a byproduct of his bipolar disorder and lying. Oh, and Mark is very much not an orphan.
- Running Gag:
- How much Mark says he embezzled rises as the film goes on, right to his very last lines.
- Mark's ridiculous (and ridiculously funny) inner monologues.
- Mark telling people his parents died in a car accident and he was taken in by an amusement park owner from Ohio. His parents are very much alive. And confused.
- People keep telling Mark not to talk to anyone else about the investigation, only for him to spill his guts to anyone who will listen in the next scene.
- In the latter half of the movie, it becomes clear to those paying close attention that Mark has started wearing a wig to hide the fact he's gone bald. By the end, he gives this up along with all his other lies (maybe).
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The film score is mostly 60s-esque boppish ditties, like an early Woody Allen movie, while Mark's master embezzlement plan keeps unfolding; James Bond-ish motifs pop up when Mark is knee-deep in his spy fantasies.
- Talkative Loon: Whitacre often sounds like one in the voice-over narration. Fortunately or unfortunately he holds it together a little better when talking to others.
- Trailers Always Lie:
- The trailers for the movie greatly exaggerated the comedic lean of the movie. While it is humorous, it's more Coens-esque dark and deadpan than light-hearted and screwball (the trailers tout the movie as being from "The Director of Ocean's 11, 12, and 13").
- This may be deliberate since a big twist occurs about halfway in when we realize that about half of what Whitacre has been saying is lies. The trailers avoid spoiling this development by keeping focus on the more humorous first half.