Scott Z. Burns
Maybe this is how the world ends – not with a bang but a wheeze. Paranoia seems almost sensible under certain circumstances – a late-night stroll through a dark, deserted alley, perhaps – but what about riding the bus to work, where killers could be sitting beside us, polluting our space with their germs?
The biggest difference between Tom Ripley, the duplicitous drifter Matt Damon played in The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Mark Whitacre, the seemingly guileless whistleblower who tries to take down the agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland in The Informant!, is that Ripley was a homicidal sociopath, while Damon’s Whitacre, whose book smarts are rivaled only by his idiocy in practical matters, is a pathological liar, and a sloppy one at that.
Whitacre, a paunchy Midwestern everyman who sports an unflattering mustache and a comically prominent hairpiece he adjusts whenever the pressure builds, is the subject of Steven Soderbergh’s latest farce. If his story seems unbelievable, as the movie’s billboards loudly suggest, so is the man himself.