Matt Damon’s latest acting venture as “The Informant!”, directed by Steven Soderbergh, may be his first act of self-effacement. His face is fatter than ever as, at 38, he had to gain thirty pounds for this role. He looks far cry from the building-climbing Jason Bourne.
The film tells the true story (based on a book by Kurt Eichenwald) of Mark Whitacre (Damon), as the scientist turned whistleblower and informat at ADM, or Archer Daniels Midland in Illinois. Whitacre has found himself drawn into corporate kickbacks and price-fixing (of lysine), and his wife (Melanie Lynskey) encourages him to play informant. Whitacre gets into a long sequence of gumshoeing for the FBI, including Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula), wearing a wire (we’re spared the chest shaving scene that occurs before the wire taping in “Se7en” with Brad Pitt), a polygraph, and various hit-or-miss meetings around the world.
Whitacre claims he is above board, bragging that he adopted two children to pay back his karma for being adopted himself. He says he is being chased an falling despite being the good guy. But as time goes by, we’re less convinced of his innocence; he seems to have developed a flim-flam element of his own, despite his advanced degrees and origins in science. In a final scene, from prison, we get to imagine what Damon might look like if he really did go bald, partially. As a whole, the movie gives a pretty good account of how a man who thinks he is “good” can slip into trouble with the law, and rationalize what he does, Dr. Phil style.
The film was produced and distributed by Warner Brothers, along with Participant and Groundswell. It’s shot in regular 1.85:1, a lot of it on location around the world, some of it in HD video to give it an indie look.
Back in the 1990s, I remember a booklet that promoted Matt Damon, along with his "best friend" (Ben Affleck). And Matt still insists that hos own original for his "Good Will Hunting" shooting script still its on an early 1990s hard-drive in his home. Damon once posted an essay on Miramax's "Project Greenlight" contest site discouraging people from going into the movies. "Don't do it", he advised.