The Informant! is a failure if it is looked at as a comedy. It is just not humorous enough to be a successful one. It had one singular moment in which I actually laughed, and the rest of the time I wasn’t finding it funny at all. None of the situations were all that funny, and none of the characters would make you laugh. The writing also wasn’t particularly entertaining, meaning the characters’ dialogue won’t enthrall.
Now, looking at it like it’s a drama or a thriller, and then the film starts to look a lot better. It has interesting characters, a story with plenty of twists, and good acting. That’s a winning formula, but without being humorous, it can’t be considered a good comedy.
The story, or at least, the beginning of the story, follows Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon). He is a member of a company called ADM, a company that has supposedly been fixing the prices of lysine with its competitors. Mark finds out that there is a rat in the company, and, with the help of the FBI, attempts to track down the rat. That’s about as much plot detail that I can get into, because anything else would both be spoiling, as well as not looking all that good written out.
There are many, many twists in the plot that occur, and you find out over the course of the film that pretty much every character will, at one point or another, lie to all of the others. You don’t find out who actually was telling the truth until the very end, and even then, you can never be completely sure. While watching it, this almost becomes a problem, especially if you aren’t paying very close attention to it. Going into it with a strictly “comedy” mindset will leave you wondering what is going on most of the time.
However, Matt Damon’s performance in The Informant! is likely enough to keep your attention. It should be, as he is really good in the role. He’s quirky, charismatic and a genuinely likeable character. He carries the movie on his back, and is the only relatable character in the film. Nobody else resonated with me at all, and their delivery made their dialogue feel even more wooden.
The story and Damon’s performance is what the rest of the film uses as a crutch. Whenever things start to go south, we get a plot twist or a fun interaction with our protagonist. This works to keep the audience’s attention, but almost feels like the film is cheating a little bit. It’s like director Steven Soderbergh knew that his film wasn’t going to be all that funny, so he threw in many twists in order to make it seem like it had a point.
I initially thought this was the case, but then I remembered that the film was based on the book of the same name. The book was based on a true story. So, I guess I can’t accuse it of cheating. If the actual story was like what is portrayed in the movie, I feel really sorry for everyone involved. With all the deception that was involved, it must have been incredibly difficult to be a part of the story.
But really, looking at the film, the story and Damon’s acting are the only good parts about it. That might have been enough, if the film wanted to be as entertaining as it could have been. Damon is a great actor, and he can do comedy. The story, however, seems to work best when played straight. These two elements, while they both work well on their own, don’t work well in tandem. They push against each other for a lot of the film, with Damon attempting humor, and the story not letting him.
The Informant! is a decent drama, but a failed comedy. It tells an interesting story, and has an intriguing lead character, but it just isn’t funny. I’m sure there are people who would find it funny, but I didn’t see the humor in it. Damon is good, but none of the other characters had much personality. The story also does get kind of confusing at times, making it slightly hard to follow. Watch it if you want to learn more about the lysine pricing fix scandal, but don’t expect an incredibly entertaining or funny film.