(By: Scott Weinberg, reprinted from TIFF 9/13/09)
If you're about to dig into a mid-'90s "period piece" about a plain nebbish at a food additive company who decides to blow the whistle on his corporation's illegal price-fixing practices, well, you better get a few interesting people to bring this sort of story to the screen. With a leading man less reliable than Matt Damon and a director less colorfully unpredictable than Steven Soderbergh, a flick like this could play like a well-meaning but hopelessly yawn-worthy docu-drama. Happily, since The Informant! boasts both of those filmmakers (and a big handful of others), it turns out to be a seriously entertaining film ... about a seriously plain man.
Damon plays Mark Whitacre, a high-ranking suit for a chemical company called ADM. Essentially, these guys create all sorts of wonderful food additives, and the focal point this time around is a corn product called lysine. Only problem is that ADM and virtually all of its executives, not to mention their competitors, are knee-deep in a global "price-fixing" scheme, which (in case you didn't know) is all sorts of illegal. But while Mark seems more than willing to narc on his colleagues, simply because it's the right thing to do, it quickly becomes evident that our semi-hero is hiding more than a few skeletons inside his own closet.