The informer!

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German title The Informant!
Original title The Informant!
Country of production USA
Original language English
Year of publication 2009
Length 108 minutes
Age rating FSK 12[1]
JMK 6[2]
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay Scott Z. Burns
Production Michael Jaffe
Howard Braunstein
Kurt Eichenwald
Gregory Jacobs
Jennifer Fox
Music Marvin Hamlisch
Camera Steven Soderbergh
(as Peter Andrews)
Edited by Stephen Mirrione
  • Matt Damon: Mark Whitacre
  • Scott Bakula: FBI Special Agent Brian Shepard
  • Joel McHale: FBI Special Agent Bob Herndon
  • Melanie Lynskey: Ginger Whitacre
  • Rick Overton: Terry Wilson
  • Tom Papa: Mick Andreas
  • Tom Wilson: Mark Cheviron
  • Clancy Brown: Aubrey Daniel
  • Tony Hale: James Epstein
  • Ann Cusack: Robin Mann
  • Allan Havey: FBI Special Agent Dean Paisley
  • Rusty Swimmer: Liz Taylor
  • Scott Adsit: Sid Hulse
  • Eddie Jemison: Kirk Schmidt
  • Patton Oswalt: Ed Herbst
  • Ludger Pistor: Reinhard Richter

TheInformant! is the film adaptation of the book The Informant! by Kurt Eichenwald and is based on a true incident. It was directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Matt Damon.


Mark Whitacre, a biochemist by training, lives the life of a wealthy average American with his wife. In the early 1990s, he works as a manager for the agricultural company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). His area of responsibility includes lysine production , where a virus causes production losses. To avoid being held responsible, Whitacre invents a conspiracy involving sabotage and blackmail by an Asian competitor. ADM calls in the FBI to apprehend the masterminds. After Whitacre fails to dissuade his superiors from cooperating with the FBI, his business and personal phone lines are tapped at his home, where he was allegedly contacted by the extortionists. To distract from his machinations and also under pressure from his wife, he informs the agents Brian Shepard and Bob Herndon about illegal price agreements of his employer with foreign competitors on a large scale.

In order to obtain more solid evidence, Whitacre is set upon his superiors to record more information from compromising meetings using a body-worn microphone and hidden cameras. Although Whitacre is very successful as a source of information using the wiretaps, the FBI agents soon discover that Whitacre is overly reckless in his actions, needy of publicity, and very gossipy. His relationship with the truth is also dysfunctional and possibly the result of bipolar disorder. Thus, he adds some dramatic details to his biography in order to lend more glamour to his public image, for example, he claims that his parents, who still enjoy the best of health, died in an accident during his childhood.

Immune to all advice from FBI agents and his lawyers, he publicly boasts about his role as an informant after the investigation comes to light. At the same time, he refuses to accept that his career at ADM is over. When the company discovers that Whitacre has been falsifying company contracts, the tide turns. Investigators and the Justice Department also discover that their informant does not have a clean record, but has been collecting large kickbacks. Pressured by ADM, the FBI finally investigates its own informant. Whitacre initially puts the embezzled sums at 1.5 million, then 5 million, and later 7.7 million US dollars. In the end, he admits to having defrauded the company of 9.5 million US dollars – but it may even have been 11.5 million US dollars.

Mark Whitacre is sentenced to nine years in prison and the masterminds of the ADM price-fixing scheme receive three years in prison and are ordered to pay large fines.


After Steven Soderbergh finished production on the 2002 feature Ocean’s Eleven, he announced he wanted to make a film of the book The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald, who had worked as a journalist at The New York Times. Scott Z. Burns wrote the screenplay based on Eichenwald’s book.

The film was shot in various locations in Illinois, Missouri, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Paris, and Zurich.[3] Filming began on April 29, 2008 and ended in June 2008.[4] Filming also took place at Whitacre’s former home in Moweaqua, Illinois, a small town about 40 km from Decatur. The film’s budget was estimated at $21 million.[4] The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 7, 2009.[5] It was followed by other screenings at various international film festivals.[5] From 18 September 2009, the film was shown in the USA, Canada and Italy.[5] It was shown in Germany from 5 November 2009.[5] On the opening weekend, almost 10.5 million US dollars were collected in the USA, with total receipts in the USA amounting to over 33.3 million US dollars.[5]

The 168th episode of the Chicago Public Radio-produced radio program This American Life, which aired on September 15, 2000, focuses on the same plot involving Mark Whitacre.[6]

Matt Damon gained more than 10 kg of body weight for the role to look like the rotund Mark Whitacre.[6]


The ARD cultural editors’ verdict: “Matt Damon, a philanderer as an arsonist who had to gain excess weight and winks through a box office frame, is stunning as a sympathetic psychopath in his fifth film with Soderbergh. He plays Marc Whitacre insecure, sly and loving – an inherently workable mix. And the story is perfectly suited to the current financial and moral crisis. The real Whitacre is very pleased with the result, and the audience should be too, enjoying themselves in this bitterly wicked farce.”[7]

The editors of Cinema sum up: “”The Informant!” could have been a flashy farce, but Soderbergh lets the story rattle and fray. Accompanied by snappy swing music, a duel of idiots takes place, which in the end remains strangely dull and expressionless. Verdict: Amusing but not really engaging farce about the deals and tricks of the financial world, unfortunately not wicked enough and far too gossipy.”[8]

Carsten Baumgardt of Filmstarts believes “Soderbergh turns the story of a white-collar criminal and con man […] into an elegantly absurd spy comedy.” In doing so, he says, Whitacre’s character is one who “lurches from one falsehood to the next until no one knows back from front – neither the protagonists nor the audience.” Baumgardt finds positive words for Matt Damon’s portrayal, yet it remains open “what the director is actually trying to say. Soderbergh’s subliminal play with truth and deception” is consistently “outstanding”.[9]


The film was nominated for Best Motion Picture in the Comedy and Musical category at the 2009 Satellite Awards, while Matt Damon was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy or Musical and Marvin Hamlisch was nominated for Best Score.[10]

Also in 2009, Matt Damon was again nominated for Best Lead Actor at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, and again Marvin Hamlisch was nominated for Best Score.[10] Additionally, Scott Z. Burns a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.[10]

Marvin Hamlisch received additional nominations for Best Film Score at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and the Online Film Critics Society Awards in 2010.[10] The score was also nominated at the 2010 Golden Reel Awards.[10]

At the 2010 Golden Globe Awards, Hamlisch was again nominated for Best Score, as well as Matt Damon received another nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.[10]

Individual references

  1. Clearance certificate for The Informant! Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry, October 2009 (PDF; Review Number: 119 928 K).
  2. Age rating for The Informant! Youth Media Commission.
  3. Filming locations according to Internet Movie Database
  4. a b Budget and box office receipts according to the Internet Movie Database
  5. a b c d e Release dates according to Internet Movie Database
  6. a b Background information according to Internet Movie Database
  7. The InformantIn: ARD cultural editorial office. Archived fromOriginal8January 2010; retrieved 15 November 2009.
  8. The InformantIn: CinemaOnline. Retrieved October 30, 2009.
  9. Film review, Filmstarts, Carsten Baumgardt
  10. a b c d e f Nominations and awards according to the Internet Movie Database

Web links