And All That Jazz
Review by Christopher Coleman
Ever wonder what Jason Bourne would be like in Bizzaro-world? Well, if you have, then let me introduce you to Mark Whitacre, Matt Damon's latest character creation and central figure of Steven Soderbergh's THE INFORMANT. Dr. Whitacre is a pudgy, pasty, Ivy-league-educated, corporate man turned whistleblower; a man with ever escalating delusions of climbing to the top of Archers Daniel Midland by bringing the peak of the company down under his feet. Mark Whitacre appears to be everything Jason Bourne is not - although one might argue that there is an comically odd parallel in the identity issues both characters face. This time, instead going on a strict exercise regiment and diet, Damon does the opposite in making his own physique match his persona. The on-screen result is just as mesmerizing, but in an inverted way. Regardless, Damon's portrayal of the character is worthy of Oscar thoughts. Director Steven Soderbergh bases his film on the book by Kurt Eichenwald, which tells the real-life tale of Whitacre. This telling goes far beyond the investigative and legal points that newspapers and television covered back in the Nineties. Eichenwald's book and Soderbergh's movie dives much deeper into the story-twists and the fractured psyche of the seemingly cooperative and good-natured Whitacre. This film is all about deception: corporate deception, government deception, and self-deception. Even the trailer is a bit deceptive; making THE INFORMANT look singularly like corporate-comic-caper. Just like Whitacre, there is another side to this film that isn't apparent in the trailers. THE INFORMANT, while containing a high-rise full of humorous moments, is also a thought provoking exploration into price-fixing, FBI operations, and the mind. In addition to the unforeseen plot-twists and Damon's exceptional performance, one of most intriguing aspects of this film is composer MARVIN HAMLISCH's original score.
What is immediately intriguing about THE INFORMANT's score is that it reflects musical sensibilities far older than the film's Nineties setting. Of course, if you are familiar with previous works of MARVIN HAMLISCH, then this jazz-founded score will not be such a surprise. For those not so familiar, Hamlisch is one of only two composers to ever win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy. In fact, he has won three Oscars, four Emmy's, four Grammy's. He has also won three Golden Globes and Pulitzer Prize. Some of his most recognizable works include THE STING, THE WAY WE WERE, and A CHORUS LINE - all famous works from the Seventies, which could be considered Hamlisch's golden era. It is that era's music in which he is allowed to indulge himself once again. Without a doubt, hiring Hamlisch was a surprising and fiendishly bold move of Soderbergh and the net result is worth examining beyond the cursory listen.