Don’t ask, don’t tell

Don’t Talk About The Informant 

The Informant is a very, very good movie indeed, but one which poses a particular challenge for me. On the one hand, I want to tell you all about it – all about Matt Damon’s superb performance as Mark Whitacre, the man who exposes his own company’s price-fixing scam; about the wonderfully clunky early 90s sets and costumes, including a mobile phone the size of a housebrick; about the slow unravelling of a plot with more twists in it than a corkscrew. 

Trouble is, I can’t write about this film without introducing spoilers, and this is a film which is best seen without knowing too much about it. The first rule of Fight Club was not to talk about Fight Club, because knowing the ending would lose you half the film’s violent and harrowing impact: the less you knew about it, the more you got out of it. Like Fight Club, The Informant is a film which relies upon a slow-release formula which will leave you absolutely reeling by the end of it. The most I am prepared to say is that it is a morality tale, or rather an immorality tale, which forces one to an excruciating re-evaluation of social versus personal sin. The moral: those who throw stones at major corporations might like to inspect their own personal glass houses first. 

Yet it is also hugely funny in a jaw-dropping kind of way, as the strangely autistic, obsessive and compulsive life and times of Mark Whitacre play out before your eyes. If you go to this movie knowing how it’s going to turn out, then you will see Matt Damon’s performance as riddled with flaws – over-the-top, or cartoonish. If not, then you will see a very good performance by a competent and skilled actor whose range extends far beyond the chiselled and good-looking villain. Middle-aged is clearly the new black for Hollywood males – for a recent example, see Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg in The Departed, unrecognisably plump and seedy – and now Damon gets to have his shot at the paunch-and-toupee look. (Yes, it is a toupee, it is meant to be a toupee, and it is not just a bad piece of costume hair). 

And that, ladies and gents, is all I am going to reveal. The only minor criticism I can offer is that it feels rather slow-starting. But once the plot begins to develop fully, you can review the slow start and realise that actually, all the clues to the truth were there from the beginning. And then you can kick yourself for being such a sucker, but take consolation in knowing that you weren’t the only one. 

This is a very well-acted, highly original, understated, and odd film. The normally handsome Scott Bakula turns in a lovely performance as FBI agent Brian Shepard, again sporting middle-aged chic with a bad comb-over and nerdy suit, and he and his sidekick Joel McHale (FBI agent Bob Herndon) are past masters of a range of facial expressions that speak more eloquently than any dialogue. It’s a quirky film: intelligent and not at all mainstream, which may account for its strangely-limited national release. In Perth it was showing at only one major cinema, and there were less than ten people in the audience at the session I attended, on a busy Saturday morning in a busy major shopping centre. 

Do, do go and see it. But just don’t talk about it.

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