THE INFORMANT!

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Overall Impression – A fun and inventive movie that really sucks you into Mark Whitacre’s confused, paranoid world.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Mark Whitacre.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: help the FBI gather evidence against a supposed worldwide price fixing conspiracy organized by his company.  Personal: keep his personal life intact.  Private: deal with paranoia caused by his bipolar disorder.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Mostly obstacles brought on by his bipolar condition, at times being the FBI and his coworkers.

What happens if he fails? – Consumers the world over will remain victims of price fixing, and Whitacre and his family will lose everything.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – When the FBI investigates a price fixing conspiracy rooted in Whitacre’s company, he can’t talk to anybody and feels like he’s being watched – he becomes an outsider in his own life.  Additionally, Whitacre’s unique way of looking at the world sets him apart.

Wanderer – Naively believing that he’s going to become a hero and secure the top job at the company after the ‘bad elements’ have been rooted out, Whitacre becomes an FBI informant.  Working with agent Shepard, they figure out the best way to gather workable evidence.  Gradually, the FBI learns that Whitacre isn’t he saint he made himself out to be, and that his accounts are as much fantasy as truth.

Warrior – When Whitacre’s ever-changing accounts threaten the case, the FBI tries to sort truth from lies and keep Whitacre on track.  However, Whitacre becomes aware that being an informant is ruining his life instead of improving it.  As he contends with financial, professional, personal and media fall-out, Whitacre starts doubting himself and what he’s gotten himself into.

Martyr – When Whitacre finally starts telling the truth, he becomes what he was trying to avoid: the fall guy. Even after everything he’s done for the FBI, his lies and criminal activity (which he’d justified in his mind) burn him more than anyone he was trying to incriminate. Whitacre loses everything and goes to jail in the name of ‘justice’.

AND, IN THE END…

I’m still wrapping my head around THE INFORMANT!, which I think is its intended effect.  Mark Whitacre is such an enigma that he had trouble discerning between reality and his own fiction, and the movie does such a great job of pulling you in that when Whitacre is revealed as untrustworthy, you start questioning the film’s events as much as the characters do.

THE INFORMANT! provides an interesting twist on the notion that the hero must give up what he wants before he can get what he needs.  Often, the hero willingly becomes a martyr, or at the very least, accepts that there are no other means by which success can be achieved.  By contrast, Whitacre can be seen as an unwilling martyr.  He wanted nothing more than for the FBI to go away, leaving him with his perfectly planned life.  Instead Whitacre had everything taken from him, which really amped up a feeling of poignancy that might not have existed had he been willing and compliant.  It’s interesting to see how a movie’s message can vary by making the main character a willing or unwilling martyr.

– Dan Pilditch

2 Responses to “THE INFORMANT!”

  1. Margaux September 29, 2009 at 11:06 am #

    I have to disagree (for the first time) with your assessment of a film. I think all the complications stem from Whitacre’s making. The inciting event was his first lie to his bosses about the mole. In retrospect, it seems clear that Whitacre’s motivation was to embezzle money from them company. Clearly, he never felt remorse for his theft, and the “why” for stealing is never explored (not necessary, I suppose).

    But the entire set up is his own doing, and whenever he gets into more trouble, it’s because of his pathological lying and inability to come clean to anyone, including the FBI, his psychiatrist, his lawyers, and his loyal wife. Not only does he milk the stories he concocts, but he finds other ways of embezzling when the initial plan goes off the rails.

    It seems to me that the bipolar disorder assessment was yet another lie he tried to pull off to help excuse his behaviour to his supporters. There is never a scene in which we see him truly depressed or manically happy. In fact, Whitacre shows more signs of antisocial personality disorder (disregard for social rules and norms, impulsive behaviour, indifference to rights and feelings of others).

    Here’s how I saw this movie:

    Orphan: Whitacre makes himself an orphan by telling everyone he is an orphan who has had to make his own way in the world.

    Wanderer: When his first plan to embezzle money results in FBI interference, he has to come up with another plan as well as figure out how to shake the FBI from suspecting his crimes.

    Warrior: When the company lawyers uncover his fraud, Whitacre has to defend his innocence (against the FBI and government, the company, and the public) with even more lying to his psychiatrist, reporters, his wife, his lawyers.

    Martyr: He accepts jail sentence. And although it appears he’s lost everything (job, money, credibility), in fact, he still may have $2 million squirreled away somewhere, waiting for him when he is released.

  2. Margaux September 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm #

    I want to add to previous post, that another sign of his antisocial personality disorder is his reflex to deflect blame and make himself look like the victim. Looking back at how the chain of events got started, and seeing how many opportunities he had and passed up to fix his situation, it’s pretty clear to me that everyone else in the story was a victim.

    His Martyr moment was a fake martyr moment, again another attempt to make himself look better. His thoroughly unconvincing statement of remorse at his sentencing and in his plea for a presidential pardon are further evidence of his willing (but phony) martyrdom. And his lack of credibility as a story teller makes me believe that he may have had more than $2 million on the side that the company and government weren’t aware of.

    I also don’t think Whitacre was really confused or paranoid; he just acted that way because of having to juggle all the lies he’d told to different people.

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