Another truth is stranger than fiction story: The Informant

Review of The Informant directed by Steven Soderbergh
Rating **** 1/2

How did this film not get more attention? Matt Damon was great. The script was original. It's one of those almost too strange to be true kind of stories. The movie reminded me a little of another film about a quirky character based on a real person – Flash of Genius by Marc Abraham about the guy who invented the intermittent windshield wiper.

This film is based on the book The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald. I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book takes a much different slant than the film. The book leans more towards suspense and intrigue whereas the film turns the whole thing into a sort of comedy of errors. When I first heard that they were making a film about this story, I was anxious to see it. But when I saw the trailer and how they had turned the story into a comedy, I put it on my to see on DVD list.

Now that I have seen the film, I totally understand why the filmmakers chose the route they did. When you only have two hours to tell a story that covers five years and that is based on a book that took just as long to write, you have to make some compromises. Price fixing and high fructose corn syrup are not subjects that translate well into film. So the screenwriter focused on the one part of the story that had the most appeal and that is the story of Mark Whitacre, a former executive of ADM turned FBI informant.

Mark is the most unlikely of candidates to go undercover for the FBI. He is self centered, naive, and a compulsive liar. I've never met anyone like Mark Whitacre, at least I don't think I have. Mark lied about everything all the time. He told so many lies that even he had a hard time discerning what was truthful and what was not. Some people simply have no conscious or empathy for others. They are sociopaths who often turn to crime or violence because they go through life without compunction for their actions. Mark certainly wasn't a violent person, but he did turn to crime. He embezzled millions of dollars. He continued embezzling money even while he was working for the FBI. And then he tried to blame others for his actions.

Now I don't want to demean another individual. We all have our faults. For all I know Mark has turned his life around and is an outstanding citizen today. My comments are based solely on the lies that were exposed and crimes that were committed. We all deserve a second chance.

I didn't give this film five stars for two reasons. First, they had absolutely no extras on the DVD. Nothing about the book or the real Mark Whitacre. The second reason is the uneven use of voice over. What makes the script so original is the way the screenwriter uses voice overs to introduce the random thoughts and internal dialogue that are constantly going through Whitacre's twisted mind. The problem is that sometimes the voice overs are random thoughts that are reflections of what he is thinking during a particular scene and other times the voice overs are narration that isn't related directly to the scene. You never know whether your listening to his thoughts at the moment or listening to narration. Still, the voice overs made the film.

One last note to the publisher of the movie tie-in book. This book should be on the best seller list right now and it isn't. Someone dropped the ball on this one.

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