Matt Damon Plays Corporate Whistleblower in New Soderbergh’s Movie

Matt Damon plays corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre in "The Informant!" by Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh delivers a cool, slyly funny psychological caper flick with "The Informant!," in which the true-life tale of a corporate whistleblower is extruded through Soderbergh's dry sense of satire and nostalgia for 1970s cinema style into a nifty, if a bit bloodless, bagatelle.

A virtually unrecognizable Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, who in the 1990s exposed price fixing at Archer Daniels Midland, where he worked as a high-level executive. Kurt Eichenwald wrote about Whitacre in his 2000 book, "The Informant," a fast-paced corporate thriller. But Soderbergh throws out the "Civil Action" playbook and instead focuses on the story's bizarro twists, most of which had to do with Whitacre's compulsive lying. Doing his best Philip Seymour Hoffman impersonation, the porn-mustached and well-padded Damon keeps up a chirpy interior monologue throughout "The Informant!," digressing into wooly meditations that ping manically from corn to Japanese sex fetishes, The Washington Post reports.

It was also reported, “The Informant!” itself is less a farce than a comic puzzle. Its protagonist, though ridiculous at times, is also elusive, even enigmatic. And the hilarity is undercut by a curious anxiety that floats free of the character and settles over the audience. What’s happening here? What are the stakes? Who is this guy?

The difficulty of shoehorning “The Informant!” into a familiar genre — an idiosyncrasy I count among its virtues — certainly presents a marketing challenge for the distributor. The comic-book action blockbuster and the crude sex comedy may be bound by strict, implicit conventions, but so too are the period biopic, the sober-sided literary adaptation and the quirky indie crowd-pleaser, perhaps more than ever in this risk-averse, recession-spooked Hollywood.

“The Informant!” doesn’t conform to these or any other models. It is an intriguing movie, and not an entirely accessible one. Which may just be another way of saying that it’s a Steven Soderbergh film, The New York Times reports.

News agencies also report, “The Informant!” is fascinating in the way it reveals two levels of events. A second viewing would be rewarding, knowing what we find out. Matt Damon's performance is deceptively bland. Whitacre comes from a world of true-blue Downstate people, without affectations, surrounded by some of the richest farmland in the world. His determination to wear the wire leads to situations where discovery seems inevitable, but he's seemingly so feckless that suspicion seems misplaced. What he's up to, is in some ways, so very simple. Even if it has the FBI guys banging their heads against the wall.

Mark Whitacre, released a little early after FBI agents called him “an American hero,” is now an executive in a high-tech start-up in California and still married to Ginger. Looking back on his adventure, he recently told his hometown paper, the Decatur Herald and Review, “It's like I was two people. I assume that's why they chose Matt Damon for the movie, because he plays those roles that have such psychological intensity. In the ‘Bourne' movies, he doesn't, The Chicago Sun-Times reports.

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