The Informant! Review

There is a strong chance you will hate The Informant!, at least for an hour. Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) is a quirky high-end employee of AMD, who decides to contact government officials to accuse his own company of price fixing corn products. He records countless meetings unbeknownst to his superiors, using the tapes against them.

Whitacre is a quirky guy. He never seems nervous through all of this, but seems to too smart. His mind wanders during various conversations, yet still picks up on the details. He is calculated and precise. There is something about Whitacre, and what begins as a story that will confuse and likely disinterest many catches fire in the final 40-minutes.

Everything becomes clear as things spiral out of control. Based on a true story, the final results of this investigation into corporate America is shocking, and not just on Whitacre’s own level. What happens to him, his co-workers, and their careers is mind-blowing, the results of either corporate stupidity or the ingenious of one man to work around the system.

It takes some time to realize what Whitacre is doing is genuinely funny. Steven Soderbergh’s direction is breezy, the music is light, and the project is quirky, but it never fully reveals itself as a smart comedy until things spiral out of control. That is the final 40-minutes, which in turn makes the previous hour a laugh riot. To understand why The Informant! is amusing, with its unnecessary punctuated title, takes patience.

Sure, Damon is superb as this odd guy near the top of this gigantic corn product company. His priceless overacting technique is enough to let the audience know something is amiss while bypassing his superior’s suspicions. The joy of The Informant is watching someone like Whitacre work, something that can truly be appreciated upon a second viewing. The clues are there; you just need to piece together Whitacre’s mind.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Digital filmmaking is a funny thing. For instance, Gamer was shot with the Red One camera, delivering some startling images bathed in rich detail and texture. Soderbergh shot The Informant! with the same camera, and the results could not be more opposite. The opening shot of a tape recorder is superb, showcasing the full texture of the metal and the wood table it sits on. That is a ruse.

Some may be quick to judge Warner’s low bitrate VC-1 encode, which admittedly dips staggeringly low at times (lowest point found was 5.6 MBPS), but with obvious filtering, blooming lights, colors that exist in hues of yellow, orange, and brown, there is little doubt this is how The Informant! was meant to look. To be frank, there is no fine detail. Faces appear digital, smooth, and entirely unnatural. Clothing exhibits no texture, and outdoor environments feature minimal definition. A few long shots of the city may draw your eye, but that is it.

Black levels are generally unimpressive, and the contrast runs hot in addition to the constant blooming. The image is always soft, and while there are no instances of noise, for as smoothed out as this appears, there shouldn’t be. The film carries a murky, flat quality, a look it will forever have regardless of format. Artifacting issues are never noted, so those who would be quick to jump on the bandwith bandwagon are misled. However, with all of the digital manipulation going on (intentionally; that’s important), it is hard to blame anyone for thinking like that.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

An uncompressed TrueHD mix is quiet, with few instances of any directional audio. The Marvin Hamlish score is everything the word “odd” stands for, and this presentation delivers it cleanly. Minimal bleed is merely satisfactory. Dialogue, while occasionally low (as with the rest of the mix; prepare to turn this one up quite a bit) is consistent and clear.

The stereo channels deliver the score, and nothing else. There are no instances of positional dialogue. Ambiance is generally dead, or too flat to take notice of.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Warner’s insistence on issuing rental exclusives sans extras without providing a review copy continues, making a judgment on the bonus features currently impossible (the disc literally has nothing on it). Should a retail copy be obtained, this review will be updated.

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆