The Informant! starts out as a true-life whistleblower movie, wherein Mark Whitacre, played by Matt Damon, cooperates with the FBI to expose his agribusiness company's involvement in price-fixing, but then turns into something unexpected when more of Whitacre's character is revealed. However, the story itself doesn't particularly characterize this movie -- it's director Steven Soderbergh's comedic approach that gives the film its personality.
While going about his business, both mundane and extraordinary, Whitacre is prone to giving us his random thoughts in voiceover, thoughts that would seem to be recollections of trivial stories, never appearing to matter to whatever is happening at hand, and almost always with some kind of wry or goofy punchline. I have to admit I was laughing readily at the very oddity of this presentation and the comedy in general, and it also helps quite a bit that Damon does a fantastic job playing this strange character, a combination of contradictory moods, impulses, and motivations that nonetheless feels believable. Now, normally, I don't really like Soderbergh's sarcastic side, and this movie is full of that, all punched up with cute music and titles updating the settings; but it works well enough here because it contributes to the oddness of the whole tale, one constantly finding a new way to catch the viewer off guard, accentuating the absurdity of Whitacre's situations.
The movie does a good job of matching its mood and tone to Whitacre's state of mind -- the further it goes, the more nervous everything gets, including Whitacre. As a film, The Informant! should be considered part of a certain genre, yet to even state what that genre is would be akin to offering up a spoiler -- but it becomes evident by the time the movie moves closer to its climax. The films of that genre are generally dramas, so this humorous approach is very tricky, but Soderbergh and Damon pull it off with aplomb.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated "R" for language.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.