With a bumbling, unreliable narrator and inaccessible lead character, The Informant! quickly becomes boring.
Much of what you need to know about this film is in the title's exclamation mark. The punctuation is a warning of the ironic tone of the story of Mark Whitacre, the main protagonist, who blows the lid on a price-fixing cartel only to be revealed as a criminal himself. It's also a nod to the aesthetic, especially Marvin Hamlisch's annoyingly ditsy score, which pays homage to 1970s American film and television. Third, and not intentionally, it's a comment on the director himself. After his Palme d'Or-winning debut film, Sex, Lies and Videotape, Steven Soderbergh spent the next few years making cerebral films that no one wanted to see. He then went on to forge a reputation as one of America's great filmmakers. The Limey, Out of Sight and Erin Brockovich are the tip of the iceberg, but Soderbergh has recently regressed back to being a director who is trying to show how clever he is. Part of his problem is the same one that afflicts Woody Allen, Spike Lee and, more recently, Clint Eastwood: he makes too many movies. A little more preparation would pay dividends. The Informant!, with its bumbling, unreliable narrator, treads similar territory to Steven Spielberg's life-is-stranger-than-fiction biopic Catch Me if You Can. The lead character is so impenetrable and treated in such an offhand way that he quickly becomes boring. Matt Damon, replete with fake moustache, wig and spectacles, does a good job but he's on a hiding to nothing in this slapdash comedy because Soderbergh doesn't give this whistle-blower the same care and attention he gave Erin Brockovich.
The Informant! screens tonight at 9.30pm in the Emirates Palace auditorium.