Thank You Mr. Soderbergh May We Have Another?

09/16/2009 4:00 AM |

The Informant!
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

The more prolific Steven Soderbergh becomes, the more his movies feel like perfunctorily adumbrated rough drafts-whether it’s the half-baked 40s pastiche of The Good German, the vapid (if pleasurable) celebrations of jet-setting chic that characterized the Ocean’s films, or the equally vapid (if less pleasurable) experiments with new technologies, like Bubble or The Girlfriend Experience.

His latest, The Informant!, a wobbly, tonally inconsistent spy farce slash character-study psychothriller, is an exercise in unreliable narration: the always serviceable Matt Damon, pudgier and shoulder-ier than usual, stars as Mark Whitacre, a businessman-scientist turned corporate whistleblower turned target of a Justice Department investigation; scene by scene, Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (working off Kurt Eichenwald’s book) peel back layers of psychological obfuscation and undermine our assumptions about the evil of corporations and the nobility of those who expose their perfidies. It’s an increasingly darkening character portrait of a pathologically mendacious crazypants; the concept of the hero is obliterated, leaving us on a murky moral plane. Oh, the movie’s also funny, with a jaunty jazz score.

So what is The Informant!? A Burn After Reading-style spoof of the 70s spy thriller? A Fight Club-style study in psychological instability? Corporate espionage à la The Insider? All three-and none? Why bother trying to figure it out when even Soderbergh won’t? Valuing quantity over quality, he’s already well on to the next movie or two. So why don’t we just do the same?

Opens September 18