Playing the very antithesis of Jason Bourne, overweight, bland and with a very elaborate unflattering hair cut, Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, one of the biggest whistle blowers in corporate history.
Despite Whitacre’s large salary, fleet of high end cars, perks and family commitments, this corporate high flier turned on his company and colleagues, by feeding insider information to the FBI over many years.
Providing detailed information, including many hours of covertly filmed video, he sealed the fate of his employer ADH, hands caught deeply in the cookie jar. Accused and later convicted, of systematic and widespread price fixing for their product Lysine, a corn based staple for many products throughout the world.
This film is more concerned with the why, rather than the what and when. Whitacre is a true innocent abroad, believing in parts that once the “bad guys” i.e. everyone else, goes to jail, he will progress up the corporate ladder to take their place. As an undercover agent he is spectacularly inept, introducing colleagues by name for the running tape, moving the camera during meetings and showing his gardener his secret tape recorder.
As they say, if you wrote this stuff no-one would believe it, this unfortunately is fact or at least based on fact.
Matt Damon is a fine actor, of that there no question and this movie further confirms this fact. Whether he will concerned that his fine work has been squandered in this confusing movie is not known.
Stephen Soderbergh continues his recent tradition of making movies that he wants to make, seemingly oblivious as to whether there is a waiting audience. Whilst well made and acted by Damon, his long suffering wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey) and FBI agent Brian Shephard (Scott Bakula), this is a curious mix of “The Insider”, “Beautiful Mind” and “Naked Gun”.
At times played for broad comedy with quite bizarre snatches of Marvin Hamlisch 60’s “Muzak” during scenes of high tension, leading to heartfelt scenes indicating the real pain he is causing. Similar to “Beautiful Mind”, the audience is led a considerable way up the garden path, only to be cheated by a confirmation of the increasingly obvious. Can anyone really base a movie on the premise of someone who clearly needs help, this is as questionable as it was with the inexplicably widely awarded Russell Crowe starrer.
Quite what the real agents thought of Whitacre’s devastating actions on all those around him is not made clear. Soderbergh instead focusing on Whitacre himself, how he felt and saw the world. This is further evidenced by a monologue running in many scenes, again hinting at the films “reveal” which destroys all dramatic impact and viewer interest. Not quite, “it was all a dream” but pretty damn close.
A well acted but ultimately frustrating film that does not appear to know what it wants to be. Is the audience supposed to laugh or cry without feeling somewhat ashamed at doing either?
Not recommended unless you are a huge Matt Damon fan