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As THE INFORMANT! ($36) plays out, one is never quite sure if Matt Damon’s character is a major league doofus, a criminal mastermind, a compulsive liar… or just out of his freaking mind. Another thing that keeps the audience off balance is the fact that director Steven Soderbergh plays up the absurd comic elements of this tale, which just happens to be based upon true events. I know I had a good time alternating between laughter, and shaking my head in disbelief at the fact that truth really is stranger than fiction. Taken from journalist Kurt Eichenwald’s book of the same name, THE INFORMANT! recounts the lysine price-fixing conspiracy of the 1990’s and tells the story of whistle blower Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon). During the early 1990, Mark Whitacre was a rising executive at the Decatur, Illinois, based Archer Daniels Midland Corporation who finds his life taking some interesting detours.

When Whitacre brings information about possible industrial espionage to his superiors, they decide to contact the FBI, and the bureau, in turn, wants to tap Whitacre’s phone lines as part of their investigation. This ultimately results in Whitacre confessing to FBI agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) that that Archer Daniels Midland executives, including himself, had routinely met with competitors to fix the price of animal feed additive lysine. This leads to a multi-year investigation, in which Whitacre helped the FBI gather hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings that document the price fixing. However, just as the FBI thinks they have made their case, and has arrested a number of key players at Archer Daniels Midland, certain facts about Whitacre come to light… and things really begin to spin out of control. The finely tuned cast of THE INFORMANT! also features Rusty Schwimmer, Tom Papa, Rick Overton, Melanie Lynskey, Thomas F. Wilson, Scott Adsit, Ann Dowd, Allan Havey, Howie Johnson, Joel McHale, Clancy Brown, Bob Zany, Tony Hale, Candy Clark, Frank Welker, Larry Clarke, Dick Smothers and Tom Smothers.

Warner Home Video has made THE INFORMANT! available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is quite good and appears to perfectly render the filmmaker’s artistic intentions. Shot digitally with Red One cameras, director/cinematographer Soderbergh has employed diffusion lenses for THE INFORMANT! which helps take the harsh edge off the story, but still help give it a very naturalistic quality. The image never crackles, but appears relatively crisp. Fine details and texturing are respectable, and are only limited by the filmmaker’s intentions. Colors demonstrate good saturation, yet are never particularly vibrant, with the production design favoring a more neutral palette. Blacks are deep and the whites appear clean. Contrast and shadow detail are above average for a screen comedy. Since THE INFORMANT! wasn’t shot on film, there is no actual grain in the image.

THE INFORMANT! is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Due to the nature of the material, THE INFORMANT! plays in the talky dramady mode, with the majority of the sound localized front & center. Sure, there are ambient and incidental sounds that are to spread to the outlying channels, but the sound design doesn’t make significant demands on one’s home theater system. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is strong in regards to Marvin Hamlisch's delightful music, as well as the sound effects. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. Deleted Scenes close out the standard extras. A DVD and Digital Copy of the film are also provided, with both housed on the second disc of this set.

THE INFORMANT! is an off center and absurd tale taken from real life that features a marvelous performance from Matt Damon. The Blu-ray presentation accurately reflects the filmmaker’s intentions, which is exactly what it is supposed to do. Recommended.



The Informant! [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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