Sunday, 22 November 2009
REVIEW: The Informant!
Its difficult to know how to take this film, because on first glance there's a lot to like here. A darkly comic look at corporate America at its most ridiculous, a relatively awesome true story with which to base itself on, a great central performance from Matt Damon, who may be the most famous movie star with the most under-appreciated amount of talent and a fantastic supporting cast of comedians both known and unknown. Plus, like, Steven Soderbergh.
So how did it not end up a legendary black comedy? It's hard to say, but it isn't. The Informant might not be the mediocre all out letdown of a movie that some have labeled it as, but its certainly disappointing in an it could have been so much better kind of way. The story follows Mark Whitacre (Damon, who is fattened up good here), high-ranking corporate man, who one day decides to turn against his employers and turn rat to the FBI. Supposedly because he just wants to do the right thing, but unsurprisingly there's more to it then that. First things first, Damon is awesome. Its one of those unfortunate times where there's an Oscar worthy performance in a less then Oscar worthy film, and that inevitably means he'll get passed over. Its kind of like Josh Brolin in W, last year, who unfortunately gave a career best performance in a 6/10 movie. Damon will top this I'm sure, but he gets so much right here, from his perfectly delivered wandering voice-over, to Whitacre's sheer ignorance of the fact that he is capable of doing anything wrong. Not to mention his big actorly moment where Whitacre finally reaches self-realization, which Damon is frighteningly good in.
No he isn't the problem. The problem is almost everything else. Soderbergh is mostly to blame I think, having almost mis-conceived the movie. I'm not saying it shouldn't have been a comedy, but the kind of comedy Soderbergh thinks it is is of use to no-one. Over the top ironic music cues repeatedly intrude over scenes of people simply walking through the office, which as the movie progresses really begins to grate, and the non-Damon sect of the cast is pretty much unanimously wasted. I guess Melanie Lynskey as the long-suffering wife and Scott Bakula as Whitacre's FBI contact are ok, but otherwise great comedians such as Community's Joel McHale, Arrested Development's Tony Hale and Geek comedian and now credible actor Patton Oswalt just turn up in suits in straight man roles, with nothing really to do but react to Damon. There's nothing more curse-worthy in movies or in life then wasted talent and in that regard this movie is hateable in spades. There's humor to be found here, but not the kind Soderbergh thought there was and its a film that should have been a drama with streaks of black humor rather then a black comedy with streaks of drama. The script is geared toward the former, but Soderbergh is determined to play it as the latter, and this confusion KO's the film's chances of being great in the process. He's a fantastic director on the whole, don't get me wrong, but he dropped the ball here.
Still, Damon's performance and skills at both being hilarious and a strong dramatic actor save the day, and prevent the movie caving in on itself. He allows it to be an enjoyable mess rather then a complete disaster.