PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Mark Whitacre, a rising star at Decatur, Illinois based Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the early 1990s, blows the whistle on the company’s price-fixing tactics at the urging of his wife Ginger.
One night in November 1992, Whitacre confesses to FBI special agent Brian Shepard that ADM executives — including Whitacre himself — had routinely met with competitors to fix the price of lysine, an additive used in the commercial livestock industry. Whitacre secretly gathers hundreds of hours of video and audio over several years to present to the FBI. He assists in gathering evidence by clandestinely taping the company’s activity in business meetings at various locations around the globe such as Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, and Hong Kong, eventually collecting enough evidence of collaboration and conspiracy to warrant a raid of ADM.
Whitacre’s good deed dovetails with his own major infractions and his internal, secret struggle with bipolar disorder seems to take over his exploits. The bulk of the film focuses on Whitacre’s meltdown resulting from the pressures of wearing a wire and organizing surveillance for the FBI for three years, instigated by Whitacre’s reaction, in increasingly manic overlays, to various trivial magazine articles he reads. In a stunning turn of events immediately following the covert portion of the case, headlines around the world report that Whitacre had embezzled $9 million from his own company at the same period of time he was secretly working with/ for the FBI and taping his co-workers, while simultaneously aiming to be elected as ADM CEO following the arrest and conviction of the remaining upper management members. In the ensuing chaos, Whitacre appears to shift his trust and randomly destabilize his relationships with Agent Shepard, his partner Agent Herndon and numerous attorneys in the process.
Authorities at ADM began investigating, in an attempt to cover tracks, the mounted papertrail with forged names and specs that Whitacre had built to cover his own subversive deeds. After being confronted with evidence of his fraud, Whitacre’s reasoning and defensive claims begin to spiral out of control, including an accusation of assault and battery against Agent Shepard and the FBI, which had made a substantial move to distance their case from Whitacre entirely. Because of this major infraction and Whitacre’s bizarre behavior, he was sentenced to a prison term three times as long as that meted out to the white-collar criminals he helped to catch. In the epilogue of Whitacre’s case, Agent Herndon visits inmate Whitacre in prison as he videotapes a futile appeal to seek a presidential pardon. Overweight, balding and psychologically beaten after his years long ordeal, Mark Whitacre is eventually released from prison with his wife Ginger, waiting to greet him.
There is something about when someone says I should watch a flick that gets me interested in it, whether it is good or not. The Informant! was recommended by one of my bosses, so I kind of felt obligated to check it out.
What did I like?
Tonality. I like how this film had a not so dark tone. Yes, I know I say that in a lot of my reviews, but I get so tired of seeing these dark, morose, depressing flicks. With this one, based on the subject matter, they could have easily gone some serious, dark route, but instead keep things light, a tad on the comedic side, and add a flair of that cheesy 60s kitsch. At first, I was like wtf?!?, but it grew on me and actually made the film more enjoyable.
Narration. With the narration that is going on from Mark Whitcare, you’re sitting and thinking “is this guy losing his mind?” Truth is, I think that was the point, because, if you will notice as he gets more intertwined in the corruption and whatnot, his mental ramblings make less and less sense.
Slimy, yet satisfying. Speaking of all the corruption, it is so easy to get lost in what is going with these two-faced characters (this is a true story, btw, so these are real people), yet the films is shot and told in such a way that we can all keep up.
No Soup for you! Yes, there are great performances from the likes of Scott Bakula and Matt Damon, but I would have to say the best had to be a surprisingly serious turn from the host of E!’s The Soup, Joel McHale. Everytime he would appear, I was expecting him to at least crack a smile, but he plays this character as straight as they come, and isn’t half bad at it. Perhaps he has a future in movies when he leaves TV.
What didn’t I like?
Nothing special. There is nothing about this flick that just sticks out to me. For the most part, it is nothing special, when there could have been a scene, character, or something that captures your attention.
Lysine. I may have missed it, but I don’t they exactly told us what lysine is. This is kind of a big thing, since it is the product behind the whole price-fixing scheme.
Intelligence question. I do have to question Whitcare’s intelligence. Why on Earth would you dare to try to cheat the Feds and your company? On top of that, why would you think there would be no consequences for doing so? I realize this guy is no super-criminal, obviously, but you gotta wonder if he’s that naive or just truly stupid!
When all the dust clears, I have to say that The Informant! was a good watch, but nothing that I’ll remember when I wake up in the morning. This is truly disappointing, but I can’t use that to discourage others from seeing it. This is worth watching at least once. Some will like and other won’t, such is the way of things. Only you can tell what your opinion will be after you watch it. For me, it was just average.
3 1/3 out of 5 stars