The Informant! is the latest film from director Steven Soderbergh and his name being attached to the project may be enough to keep most moviegoers away. Not unlike my criticism of director Roland Emmerich in my review of his latest movie, 2012, Soderbergh has an extremely shoddy track record with his directorial work since the turn of the century, although with much different (and significantly less commercial) material than that of Emmerich. Since 2001's entertaining Ocean's Eleven, the overrated filmmaker has given us Full Frontal, Solaris, Ocean's Twelve, Bubble, The Good German, Ocean's Thirteen, Che: Part One and Part Two, and The Girlfriend Experience. The only one on that list I never saw was Bubble (lucky me, I suspect) and the second part of Che (the first part, at a slow-as-molasses-in-January two hours and fifteen minutes, was more than enough for me). So by my count, that's about 14 wasted hours of my life I'll never get back, all at the hand of one man.
Actually, you can add another 108 minutes to that, which is how long The Informant! runs. It's supposed to be a dark comedy, but it's about as funny as The Insider, another corporate whistle blower film...that was about as serious as a drama gets. There is so much about this film to dislike, whether it's the supposedly clever exclamation point in the title (which wasn't in the book title of the same name written by Kurt Eichenwald, on which the film is based), the challenging narrative, the grating hipster 60's score from Marvin Hamlisch that more than fulfilled my yearly quota of xylophone and surf music, the lacklustre supporting performances (led by Scott Bakula as an FBI agent), or the unmemorable leading role played by Matt Damon.
Damon plays Mark Whitacre, the vice president of Illinois agricultural conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, who blew the whistle on his company for their involvement in global food additive price-fixing with their competitors. Whitacre is an enigma whose irrational behaviour and warped thinking appear completely at odds with someone who had the ability to set himself apart from the pack and become a rising young executive star at one of the 50 largest U.S. corporations. Despite informing(!) on his co-workers (which also entangles himself in the price-fixing), he has delusions of grandeur that his role in exposing the corporate malfeasance will lead to a sizeable promotion. Then there's the fact that the FBI investigation uncovers a skeleton in Whitacre's closet that further displays his amazing lack of common sense for having not connected the potentially self-implicating dots between the two.
The changes to Damon's appearance for the role may seem drastic on paper (30 extra pounds of weight, hairpiece, cheesy moustache, and a prosthetic bulbous nose), but they're actually quite subtle and serve to enhance his performance as an unlikeable weasel. The key word there is "unlikeable", though, which makes it a huge challenge spending almost two hours in Whitacres's world of lies and deceit, as crafted by Soderbergh's pretentious hand that once again turns in yet another deadly dull film effort.