Inside the mind of Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), facts and information swirl into a funnel cloud shielding him from the harsh realities he would rather remain oblivious to. He rambles through thought associations — a wool sweater on an employee causes him to discuss his opinions on how it feels, that his wife enjoys it, and that she also enjoys avocados. “And who wants that texture in their mouth?” Based on a true story, The Informant! takes a lighthearted approach in showing how one man, capable of bringing a Fortune 500 company to justice, can become his own worst enemy.
Working for ADM, a large food and ingredients company, one of Whitacre’s charges is lysine production. After Whitacre claims sabotage against his company, the company calls in the FBI to investigate. With the government looking over his shoulder, Whitacre cracks and confesses that his company hasn’t been on the up and up.
Now working for the FBI as a spy and whistleblower, Whitacre brings down the net on his company. Signs of Whitacre’s mental instability show, and Whitacre’s investigation and the conflicting stories he tells leads the FBI down a crooked path to another criminal — Whitacre, himself. When FBI agents question him about a New York Times report claiming. among other things, that Whitacre had been embezzling millions of dollars from ADM, Whitacre asks them what they think about his stubble portrait in the paper. Lies begin to unravel, and it becomes apparent that Whitacre can’t help but dig himself into a much deeper hole. While there’s an odd sense of humor in the movie, watching Whitacre lead the FBI agents deeper into his rabbit hole is a confounding experience in itself. The light-hearted tone of the movie — perhaps deliberately — betrays the subject matter because things seem so glib even while the world around Whitacre falls tragically apart. Overall, it’s well acted and cheeky, but the movie’s main focus doesn’t seem clear until Whitacre’s knee-deep in bull-poo, and then it’s a matter of figuring out what’s real and what’s embellished, made up, or stricken out. It’s a tangled web full of deceit, but there’s too much webbing and not enough gapping to make it effective.