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Feature
The Informant! is based on the true story of Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a rising star at agri-industry giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who suddenly turns whistleblower. Exposing his company's multi-national price-fixing conspiracy to the FBI, Whitacre envisions himself being hailed as a hero of the common man and handed a promotion. But before all that can happen, the FBI needs evidence, so Whitacre eagerly agrees to wear a wire and carry a hidden tape recorder in his briefcase, imagining himself as a kind of de facto secret agent.

The Informant
If that were all there were to the story The Informant! wouldn’t be all that interesting of a movie, but fortunately as things move along they get more complicated. Unfortunately for the FBI their lead witness hasn't been quite so forthcoming about a great deal of information. Whitacre's ever-changing account frustrates the agents (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale) and threatens the case against ADM as it becomes almost impossible to decipher what is real and what is the product of Whitacre's active imagination.

On the surface The Informant! might simply seem like the story of how ADM became embroiled in one of the largest price-fixing cases in history, but it’s really a character study of the man who first brought the scheme to light. Armed with a witty adaptation by Scott Burns and a superb performance from Matt Damon, Soderbergh’s film begins like you might expect but takes turn after turn as Whitacre’s actions drive him deeper into near insanity, maybe. At first he reveals to the FBI that he’s simply wearing a white hat, attempting to right a great wrong done to the American people at the hands of the black hats in ADM’s front office, but his reasons for disclosing the fix become less and less clear as the investigation begins to turn up some damning, ancillary information. Did Whitacre really see himself as some sort of white knight? Did he tattle on his ADM cohorts in an effort to knock them out of the way and climb the corporate ladder? Was he trying to save his job and his family’s standard of living after a project he was heading stalled?

The Informant
The movie never makes Whitacre’s purpose all that clear nor does it ever paint a definitive portrait of just what kind of a person Mark Whitacre is either. Just as his motivations become less transparent, the all-American family man who we think we have come to know as Mark Whitacre slowly descends into a near maniacal state of desperation, which may simply be as a result of clinical depression, the act of a conniving pathological liar who got caught, or a little bit of both. At one point in the movie Whitacre fakes a kidnapping, and with his wife at his side goes on a local news show to recount his traumatic experience. Was the entire episode to illicit sympathy from the encircling FBI or strengthen his side of the story, a way to try and regain the waning confidence of his wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey), or the machinations of someone slowly going out of their mind? Wisely—and rather slyly—the film never answers this and other questions, leaving many unanswered and the audience to figure them out after the credits have begun to roll.

The Informant! is entertaining, but it won’t cater to everyone’s tastes. It’s very funny, but its humor is found in the absurd circumstances Whitacre places himself in the middle of rather than the snappy one-liners or ridiculous situations found in recent comedy flicks such as The Hangover. The fact that the story is based on real events and the majority of its characters live in the mundane world of corporate boardrooms, corner offices, and lonely motel rooms adds a bizarrely surreal finish to the film. There is also some really fine acting that takes place from Scott Bakula and Joel McHale as Whitacre’s FBI handlers, and Melanie Lynskey’s performance as Whitacre’s wife is much more nuanced than at first it seems. One thing that is for sure is that if you find The Informant! to be your kind of movie, you’ll immediately want to give it another go just to see in what ways Mark Whitacre and Soderbergh have tried to pull the wool over your eyes.

The Informant
Video
Warner Home Video presents The Informant! on Blu-ray with a 1080p VC-1 transfer and the results are typical of the high quality put into Warner's new release titles on the format, accurately recreating the film's theatrical presentation in every way. There are no multi-gazillion dollar special effects going on here that would make this disc demo material for your home theater, but the movie's warm cinematography is extenuated by deep, strong blacks and color that almost pops off the screen while not sacrificing natural skin tones. The level of detail in the video is higher than you will find on the accompanying DVD copy of the film, and I couldn't detect any instances of edge enhancement during my two viewings either. Being a newly released film, it's not surprising to find that there aren't any artifacts or other inconsistencies with the video that aren't intended by the filmmakers. Coupled with expert cinematography from Peter Andrews (aka director Steven Soderbergh), The Informant! is one nice looking film on Blu-ray.

The Informant
Audio
You aren't going to be blown away by Warner Home Video's included Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track, but let's face it, The Matrix this movie is not. What you will find, however, is an audio track that is more than up to the task of carrying this film on Blu-ray. While the sound field isn't heavily populated with surround effects or a strong LFE output and might seem pretty bland, you do get an audio track that is free of any defects and offers crisp, clear dialogue while presenting a nice platform for composer Marvin Hamlisch's excellent and quirky score.

The Informant!
Extras
Warner has given owners of the Blu-ray a couple of extras with their release of The Informant!. First up is an audio commentary with Steven Soderbergh and writer Scott Burns, who discuss a wide range of topics that include the original source material, Kurt Eichenwald's "The Informant: A True Story", and Burns' adaptation of the material for the screen, the film's casting and the overall production. Like other commentary tracks featuring Soderbergh, this is another interesting journey into the filmmaker's process that those of us who enjoy such extra features will enjoy.

The other extra on the disc is the inclusion of four deleted scenes—all presented in high definition—that are of interest enough to view at least once after you’ve watched the main feature. The package is rounded out with the inclusion of a second disc which houses a DVD copy of the movie sans special features and a digital copy for portable devices.

The Informant
Overall
Offbeat would be one word to describe director Steven Soderbergh's latest effort on Blu-ray, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Centered around Matt Damon's excellent performance as Mark Whitacre the film isn’t exactly what you might expect, but instead a rather complex character study of the man former FBI supervisor of the ADM case Dean Paisley would later go on to call "a national hero". Warner Home Video's Blu-ray presentation features top notch audio and video which carry over the theatrical experience of watching the movie with ease, and while the included audio commentary is a very welcome addition the lack of many other meaningful extras is a bit of a disappointment. Overall some folks will really enjoy watching Mark Whitacre's life unravel before their eyes and through the camera lens of Steven Soderbergh, while others might find it too Insider-lite for their tastes.

*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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