Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Written By: Scott Z. Burns
Based on the book by: Kurt Eichenwald
Cinematography By: Steven Soderbergh (As Peter Andrews)
Editor: Stephen Mirrione
Cast: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Clancy Brown, Tony Hale, Ann Dowd, Rusty Schwimmer, Eddie Jemison, Tom Papa, Rick Overton, Thomas F. Wilson, Scott Adsit, Andrew Daly, Ann Cisack, Patton Oswalt, Tom Smothers, Paul F. Tompkins, Candy Clark
Mark Whitacre has worked for the lysine developing company ADM for many years and has even found his way into upper management. But nothing has prepared him for the job he is about to undertake – being a spy for the FBI. Unwillingly pressured into working as an informant against the illegal price-fixing activities of his company, Whitacre gradually adopts the idea that he’s a true secret agent. But as his incessant lies keep piling up, his world begins crashing down around him.
Based on a true story. This seems like the perfect set-up for a comedy a rather dry one.
The film starts off a little haphazard at first laying it’s groundwork. That at first is confusing, but you get the full picture as the film goes on. The first half of the film also feels a little pretentious as it seems to feel it’s the smartest kid in the room and has jokes and humor that seems to be inside and to itself, but the film becomes more interesting and compelling as the film goes on.
Though there are many good actors in the film their roles are so small they never get a chance to shine. Quite a few stand-up comedians in the cast. I believe more in their improv skills and ability to punch up the lines to have a humorous stance, but most of them play straight and deadpan whereas the dramatic actors are playing more comedic roles. Which I believe is another cinematic experiment by director Steven Soderbergh to subvert genre rules and play with the material.
The film is practically a one-man show for Matt Damon who gained weight for the role. Already a great actor. He is certainly having fun here while portraying a three-dimensional real character.
It’s always nice to see Scott Bakula on screen as a character actor. Who always seems to pop up in the odd film. Who I always feel should work more though it maybe my hero-worship of him from the Tv Show QUANTUM LEAP.
I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to Mr. Soderbergh and his movies. I applaud his filmmaking skills and the fact that he brings more experimental techniques and direction to mainstream films. The problem is that at times it generally distracts and makes you pay more attention to it. Then the actual story that is onscreen can work if it’s a story you’ve seen many times (ERIN BROCKOVICH) before or the films. Theme and plot are thin or more of a character study, but if it’s a straightforward film it can be a bit much. I respect and honor him for it, but at times it feels a bit much.
What works here is that in his head Matt Damon’s character is playing this espionage mission and is a hero and has convinced himself that he is the innocent hero and his employers are the villains when in actuality he is the villain, yet see’s himself as a double agent and is able to convince others of this. Only it’s not an exciting action-packed cat and mouse situation, but the most mundane and boring business double-dealing. It’s a nice an interesting contrast considering we have seen Damon actually play a character in life or death Espionage action films in The Bourne Trilogy
In an NPR radio interview, Matt Damon said that Steven Soderbergh, to get Mark Whitacre’s final apology to the judge just right, directed Damon to perform the lines as if he were accepting an Academy Award. (Damon said it was an example of “perfect direction”.)
The mood of the film comes off as a timely classic period piece though it is thoroughly modern. Steven Soderbergh makes films full of ideas that might not always work for general audiences, but at least he is trying you get a general sense of excitement behind his films as he is actually thinking far ahead while in the moment. This doesn’t make for the fastest most exciting moments while watching the films. Once you are finished watching the film though it does leave you to think more about what you have seen. it stays with you a bit longer. You just don’t dismiss and forget. It’s not exactly disposable. That is what a true artist as a director brings to the screen.
The film purposely styles itself like a classic 70’sfilms in tone and mood. Even its titles and score by Marvin Hamlisch. This also leans it more towards the Pretentious style or maybe I am being a bit harsh and it’s more a homage.
I realize that at times Soderbergh more goes for the documentary-style where he seems like he is filming as it really happens. I give more kudos to the cast for never breaking and making the mundane of the character believable.
The film starts off as a guy who tells a lie to get out of trouble and the lie just snowballs bigger and bigger leading to a bunch of lies and when he finally gets caught. He tries to lie and deal his way out. The thing is as he is lying at times he even seems to believe the lies but ends up destroying many lives for nothing while still feeling and portraying the victim as not understanding or refusing to see why people are mad at him.
I believe his character appears to want to be the rebel because he believes he is always being slighted but wanting to be popular also and believing he is the smartest guy in the room.