Sunday, September 27, 2009

Review: The Informant!

I didn't expect The Informant! to be a comedy. I should have payed more attention to the exclamation point--the movie definitly has a comic sensibility. Matt Damon's portrayal of Marc Whitacre was excellent. This is the type of story that is so absurd it has to be true--otherwise no one would be ever believe it. And, of course, the story of Whitacre, ADM, the FBI, and multiple levels of lies and self-deception is true.

This remarkable story is told in a book (The Informant -- no !) by Kurt Eichenwald. Eichenwald's reporting was the basis for a 2000 episode of This American Life which was re-aired last weekend. I saw the movie before listening to the pod-cast. I can imagine that the experience is rather different depending on how familiar you are with the story.

I found the movie to be entertaining, but thought that the points raised by the This American Life episode were more thoughtful. The film gets the point of the basic absurdity of the situation (the lying informant) across clearly, and also illustrates the banal nature of corporate malfeasance. But I'm more intrigued by the questions raised of how to define price fixing, how to prove it, and how beholden we are to large corporations.

This is a movie worth seeing--the story is intriguing, the casting seems spot on (even Scott Bakula), and the portrayal of early/mid-1990s technology and fashion is an added bonus.

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