Tuesday 24 November 2009

Review: The Informant!

Year: 2009
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay: Scott Z. Burns
Starring: Matt Damon

Synopsis is here

The Informant! (the ! is part of the title) is an odd little film, lying halfway between Steven Soderbergh's more adventurous features and his more mainstream affair. At first it struggles to find it's way. The screening I watched had three walkouts, and I could see why. I just simply wasn't getting into the characters and the predicament being set up. The build up is boring and sometimes frustratingly obscure with Soderbergh giving us a talkie set up which does little to entertain or give an entry point. When I watched a couple walkout just before we got to the middle of the film I didn't envy them.

However, that well known story about people leaving halfway through a film and suddenly the film gets better? Well this is what happened with The Informant! The film shook off it's dull first half and becomes a daft but amusing character study of a man whose naivety and inability to see the leaves through the trees puts him in a farcical heap of trouble.

The film could be more goofy and Soderbergh certainly sets the film up to be with it's day-glo titles and satirical musical score that send-ups spy films with a breezy charm. However, it's only when the shit hits the proverbial fan that the movies plot seems to fall into line with the rest of the films mechanics. As the pressure builds from the unreliable protagonist (narrated in a wonderful stream of consciousness style by Damon) the film becomes more and more intriguing, and what looked to be a sub-standard wanna be espionage, becomes darkly amusing character study.

Damon carries the film considerably well, because while all the talk of corn and price fixing does nothing to raise an eyebrow, his actual performance does. He once again reminds us that while he is now an A-list star, he is still an actor that can envelop and become a fully formed character. It's not just the manner of speaking and animated exasperation, but even the walk he walks helps bring about a desperate and deeply inadequate man. It's a good thing Sodenbergh has such faith in this man because the rest of the cast don't really raise their own game a such. In fact only Scott Bukula gives any performance of note.

While recording the podcast, my partner asked me if I considered this to be a lesser Sodenbergh film. I don't consider any of his features to be "lesser" so-called, as he always tries to bring something different to the cinematic party. The last year has had Soderbergh looking at character studies of a varied range of people and this is one of them. I do believe however, that The Informant! will require a viewers patience in order to get past the rather large hurdle of the first act.

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