The Informant!

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Informant! Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Playful tale of corporate misdeeds may interest some teens.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 108 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 11 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main character says he wants to expose a huge corporate scandal because he believes it's wrong, but it soon it becomes clear that he has less pure motives for coming forward. The film is based on a true story about an investigation into price-fixing by massive conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mark is an unreliable narrator who may not always be telling the whole truth. His motives for becoming an informant are questionable, and his stories usually paint him as either a hero or victim but never show him doing anything wrong.

Violence

Some intense arguments.

Sex

One man crudely discusses a former co-worker and how attractive she was.

Language

Plenty of swearing, including many uses of "f--k" (some with "mother"), “s--t,” "t-ts," "goddamn," “a--hole,” "damn," "hell," and more.

Consumerism

Brands mentioned or seen include luxury cars (like Porsche and Ferrari), EconoLodge, and Anheuser Busch.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some adult characters drink -- both socially and at times of crisis.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this engaging Steven Soderbergh comedy received an R rating principally for language. The actual subject matter -- corporate misdeeds -- may only appeal to teens, however, because it stars Matt Damon. The movie is based on a true story and sends some mixed messages about corporate ethics; ethical breaches are treated somewhat lightly, which may make the crimes seem less serious. And the main character isn't exactly a role model himself. That said, teens old enough to understand the movie's tone won't miss the message about the importance of questioning greed and its place in today's society. While there's little sex or violence, you can expect some drinking and plenty of cursing (including "f--k," "s--t," and more), plus frank, sometimes complicated discussions about certain criminal activities.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykhan2705 May 29, 2011

an enjoyable witty odd comedy.

A rising star in the agricultural industry suddenly turns whistleblower in hopes of gaining a lucrative promotion and becoming a hero of the common people, inad... Continue reading
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bydocpainter October 1, 2009
My 13 yo son and I both enjoyed it. Hard to follow in spots but intriguing and thought provoking. Definitely promotes message that lying doesn't pay. Th... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymasonlackey January 15, 2011

great movie matt damon is a genius

this move is brilliant smart genius well made all of the above probably only to attract some older teens but i was reeled in like a fish.
Kid, 12 years old August 26, 2010

Just boring

Let your little kid watch it, they won't like it... it's boring

What's the story?

In 1992, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) -- a high-level executive at the Arthur Daniels Midland Foundation -- became one of the biggest whistle-blowers in U.S. history when he informed the FBI that the Fortune 500 firm had been involved in an international price-fixing agreement among producers of food additives. Whitacre subsequently agreed to record meetings to help the government build its case, but little did the feds know that the whole story -- the true story -- was far more complicated than they could ever have imagined.

Is it any good?

Based on a true story, this movie is never what it seems. It reads espionage but winds up a farce. It looks dated, but with all the corporate intrigues in recent headlines, it feels au courant. And there's Whitacre, portrayed sympathetically by Damon, whose performance borders on caricature but doesn't cross the line. From the moment we hear him speak through voiceovers that reveal his musings -- which ping-pong from his favorite German word ("kugelschreiber") to the texture of avocado to his ambitions at ADM -- we sense that something's not quite right. But is it his company? The government? Or Mark himself?

Director Steven Soderbergh balances comedy and intrigue masterfully. Had he opted for a straightforward retelling, The Informant! could easily have veered into tedium. But this treatment feels just right. After all, Whitacre isn't your average whistle-blower: He's bumbling, indiscreet, and grandiose (at least in this take on his story). Soderbergh includes the audience while simultaneously leaving them befuddled, part of the same perplexing ride that nearly everyone else Whitacre encounters is on. The score (by Marvin Hamlisch), the set design -- it's all right on target, down to the cutesy exclamation point in the title.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Mark reveals what he does. Are his true motives clear? Is he ultimately a hero or a villain?

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  • Why do companies, particiularly large ones, seem unable to prevent breaches in ethics? Is there a general culture of greed that encourages unlawful behavior?

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  • The movie is based on a true story. Do you think filmmakers changed any of the key facts for the movie? Why would they do that? How could you find out?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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