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The movie The Informant! is about narcissistic personality disorders, corporate and personal greed, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. It is a true story which makes it even more interesting. I am not sure why it was rated R because there were no sex scenes, no curse words and no blood or gore. Maybe the film industry just felt that the subject matter was very risqué for people under 17.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, The Informant! was written by Scott Z. Burns, based on the book, The Informant: A True Story, by Kurt Eichenwald. The music was cleverly done by Marvin Hamlisch and helps to develop the intensity of the plot as the director cleverly interweaves scene after scene to expose the corporation.
Matt Damon plays the title role of Mark Whitacre, a genius of sorts – a biochemist and high-ranking executive for a chemical company called A.D.M. – Archer Daniels Midland. This movie is based on a real-life whodunit and why, recounting the strange tale of Mark Whitacre. Known as the supermarket to the world, A.D.M. manufactures, among many other products, the kinds of ingredients that invariably show up in tiny print on the labels of almost everything we eat – mystery matter like lecithin, sorbitol and xanthan gum. It also produces lysine, an amino acid given to feedlot cattle and other livestock. The focal point in the movie is the corn product called lysine.
In the early 1990s, A.D.M. and virtually all of its executives, not to mention their competitors, are knee-deep in a global “price-fixing” scheme, which is illegal. Whitacre turned informant and supplied the FBI with hundreds of tapes that implicated his firm in this global price-fixing scheme. His decision to go to the FBI and turn in his colleagues is because it’s the “right thing to do.” At first, you think Mark is a decent, albeit nerdy guy with a big heart.
His sweet wife, Ginger, is played by Melanie Lynskey, (who rose to fame as Rose in the hit TV show, Three & A Half Men.) It would have been nice to see a bit more of their relationship; it may have explained some of his actions better.
Scott Bakula and Joel McHale play F.B.I. agents, Shephard and Herndon, who, after wiring up Mark’s body and briefcase, become so touchingly protective of him that they carry around a photo of his family. They were priceless. The Smothers Brothers, Tom and Dick, have small cameo roles and they, too, were priceless even though their roles weren’t comedic in any way.
As the story unfolds, we begin to see a narcissistic personality emerge who justifies his own criminal activities while ratting out his colleagues. Damon, sporting an extra hefty 25 lbs. or so, is hilarious as the naïve Mark Whitacre. The musings and inner dialogue of this character is downright hysterical and was the high point of the movie for me. The movie also illustrated how geniuses can be absolutely the dumbest people in the world when it comes to good ole fashioned common sense. (I’ve known people like this.)
The movie really wasn’t so much an attack on capitalism, but rather it was an attack on corporate and personal greed, as well as narcissistic personalities. It also really wasn’t a comedy either although it has been advertised as such. The film has a dry and laconic demeanor and moves from scene to scene at an even pace, plodding along like a slow race horse in a derby that’s just clopping along…suddenly, the horse starts running faster as events start unwinding to expose lies and more lies.
It’s a very good movie. I think psychologists/psychiatrists and all mental health professionals would enjoy seeing this since it deals with narcissistic personality disorders. (You will recognize people you know in some of the roles.) I think everyone will benefit from seeing it to understand a little better how our corporate world operates. Because unfortunately, I think there are many, many corporations that take kick-backs and operate solely out of greed. It’s a shame, but it shows capitalism at its worst.