Famous Filmmaker : Forgotten Film | Steven Soderbergh: The Informant!

Though this will be Steven Soderbergh’s first appearance as the featured director in this series, I can all but guarantee this won’t be his last. Throughout his career he has worn so many different hats directorally, ranging from thrillers to pulpy action flicks to intimate dramas, though Soderbergh does seem to have a penchant for making great docudramas, among them the oft overlooked 2009 gem, The Informant!. While this film is recent enough that it still exists in public memory, and was financially successful, this film is often overlooked when discussing Soderbergh’s extensive and diverse filmography. In addition, it is a movie that I feel is sorely under-seen, despite it being a terrific piece of cinema.

The Informant

Right off the bat, Matt Damon fits perfectly in the role of Mark Whitacre, a biochemist turned businessman working for ADM, a food processing mega corporation located in small town Illinois. Mark is almost instantly one of the most likable character I have ever seen in a movie. He is worldly, intelligent, motivated, and idealistic without seeming naive.  Mark has a childlike sense of wonder and seems to be equal parts imaginative and thoughtful. However, Mark is also just a touch paranoid, and when the FBI is called in to investigate the potential contamination of a compound Mark frequently works on called lysine, he immediately starts blabbing company secrets, concerned that this investigation might turn up some unsavory actions that Mark was forced into by his superiors.

As it turns out, ADM, along with most other lysine distributors international, have been engaging in price fixing. Since this could potentially be a billion dollar lawsuit for the government, and Mark has made the mistake of being the only person to leak this information, he is somewhat willing pushed into becoming an FBI informant to gather intel for this theoretical lawsuit. However, things start to take a bit of a turn later in the investigation, as Mark starts to worry about his job security after he likely sends all his friends and co-workers to jail. Coupled with his now ever growing ego, based on all the attention and acclaim he is receiving from the FBI for being a whistleblower, Mark starts to make a streak of increasingly questionable decisions as the investigation draws to a close, shedding double on the once unquestionable scrupulousness of his character.

Though this film often times feels like a “small” movie, it is among my favorite Soderbergh films. The screenplay is fantastic, all the dialogue is snappy and tight, and Matt Damon delivers some one liners that I still remember to this day from my initial viewing of the film on its release. The supporting cast is stellar, and full of comedians who rarely seem to make it to the silver screen like Tom Papa and Joel McHale. If you haven’t gotten a chance to see this film, try to work it into a viewing one weekend. Though I wouldn’t exactly describe it as a must see for everyone, I find it hard to picture anyone disliking this charming film.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Ted Review

Seth MacFarlane’s particular brand of irreverent humor translates well to the big screen in this raucous summer flick. Fans of MacFarlane’s monolith comedy series Family Guy, American Dad, or The Cleveland Show will find the world of Ted just as filled with off-color topical references and random cutaway gags as any of his other works. The fairly predictable plot focuses on late-twenties burnout John (Mark Wahlberg), as he tries to balance his relationships with girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), and Ted (voiced by MacFarlane), the teddy bear he wished to life as a child.

For a movie that could have relied heavily on teddy-bear sex humor and immature comedy, Ted has a surprisingly acerbic wit that makes the occasional use of such humor a little more forgivable. The film’s best moments often come from the fanatical friendship between John and his best friend, and some cameos from Sam Jones (Flash Gordon) and Ryan Reynolds had me laughing out loud. Wahlberg seems to have been typecast a bit for this role, but his delightful turn in Ted more than justifies it.

MacFarlane has stated that he wanted to take the CGI effects mastered by James Cameron and Ridley Scott and implement them to make a live-action comedy, and the results here are superb. Wahlberg’s performance meshes extremely well with Ted’s animations, as evidenced by an uproariously funny hotel room fight scene. In fact, it’s surprising at points how well MacFarlane’s humor translates from animation to live-action.

With any luck, other live-action comedies will look to Ted as an example of how to use animation effectively: not as a means for easily overblown humor, but as a way to add depth to a story by creating characters that are genuinely funny. MacFarlane’s obvious mastery of this concept is likely what has endeared his work to television fanatics all over the world, and its use in Ted is refreshing and welcome.

Anyone who’s familiar with MacFarlane’s other work and enjoyed it will love Ted. A strong showing from the cast, combined with a smart and witty script, make this film  worth an evening out.

Rating: 4 out of 5