Steven Soderbergh's THE INFORMANT!

With movies like the OCEAN’S trilogy, CHE, and THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, Steven Soderbergh has proved he is one of the most prolific working filmmakers. His latest directorial effort, THE INFORMANT! is no exception. But don’t let the trailer fool you. The happy, bumbling, well-meaning corporate exec turned informant is only part of the story. Mark Whitacre (played flawlessly by Matt Damon) is a deceptively more complex character.

Whitacre is a biochemist at a lysine developing company (they push corn-based products), and when something goes awry with their formula, Whitacre breaks the news that there is a mole within the company communicating with one of their Japanese competitors. The Feds are called in and Whitacre, drawn by the idea of being a hero, goes undercover. But all is not what it seems. As the case heads into its third year, Whitacre’s FBI buddies (along with the audience) discover that while he is certainly happy, bumbling and well-meaning, he is by no means a hero.

The film moves at a brisk pace, covering years of tedious investigation in a little over an hour, and I was so swept up in the story that when the plot turned I was honestly taken aback. Towards the end of the film you start noticing things like the fact that Whitacre, a pudgy, middle-America kind of guy, inexplicably has a driveway full of flashy cars, that he’s wearing a toupe and that his wife is actually kind of strange. The key element that keeps this from having one of those gotcha! moments, is that Whitacre actually believes his own lies and so the film becomes less about a deal gone wrong and more about the insane, self-deluding nature of a man who seems otherwise like such a textbook case.