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Film / The Informant!

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"While this motion picture is based on real events, certain incidents and characters are composites, and dialogue has been dramatized. So there."
Opening disclaimer

The Informant! is a 2009 movie directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Matt Damon. It is Based on a True Story first described by journalist Kurt Eichenwald in his 2000 nonfiction book of the same title.

The movie concerns itself with Mark Whitacre (Damon), an employee of Archer-Daniels-Midland (AKA 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 lysine 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 tee.

Unlike most films about this subject matter that are inspired by a true story, this is Played for Laughs. Mostly. So there.

It's also notable for featuring Marvin Hamlisch's last theatrical film score before his death in 2012.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Bad Liar: Mark is constantly guilty of this, especially audacious when his parents find out that he's been saying he's an orphan.
  • Black Comedy: Whitacre is a complete and utter bumbling moron and Bad Liar, which makes the reveal that this made him Beneath Suspicion either incredibly surprising or incredibly absurd, not to mention that he still tries to bumble his way through multiple Blatant Lies afterwards.
  • Book Dumb: Inverted - Mark is extremely intelligent on paper with the epilogue even mentioning that he obtained two P.H.D.s while in prison, 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!".
  • The Cameo: Frank Welker as Whitacre’s father.
  • Chaotic Stupid: While he always believes that he's a Knight in Shining Armor kind of guy, the film shows Mark is this. He seriously thinks that once he embezzles and destroys the company he works for, by tossing the entire chain of command to the FBI, he will have the way free to take over it. Whitacre's own wife calls it an incredibly stupid idea when he tries to explain it to her.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Whitacre's blabbermouth tendencies and foolishness put him right here.
  • 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, but it's really a haphazard cover for an attempted takeover of the company or at least getting away with embezzling them.
  • 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 Whitacre starts the movie as a whistleblower. By the end of the movie his web of lies has become ridiculously tangled, and it turns out he had been embezzling money from the company for years.
  • 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 rationalize 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, 1991-1992, 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.
  • Stupid Evil: Mark. He's smart enough to be able to embezzle a company with nobody being the wiser (that it's him, at least). Then he decides it's not enough, and tries to become a false whistleblower so he can place the blame on the corporate management above him. And that's when his bumbling really does him in.
  • Talkative Loon: Whitacre often sounds like one in the voice-over narration. Fortunately for him, 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"). It does help hide the film's narrative surprises regarding Whitacre later on, due to this being an obscure true story.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Mark is a mentally disturbed man with a lying disorder. It makes the Halfway Plot Switch from him being a "heroic informant" (although a moron), to a (still-moronic) opportunist that's only snitching on the executives to take their place, a hell of a twist.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Showing the sentences of those arrested.
  • Villain Protagonist: Mark Whitacre, who we had been following for half of the film's runtime and considered a moron in over his head trying to take on Big Business for the sake of justice, turns out to be a moron in over his head that is trying to use the FBI to get rid of competition so he'll take over a company (or at least embezzle the shit out of it). The Reveal hits like a ton of bricks.

Alternative Title(s): The Informant