The Informant

Plot Synopsis: Based on a true story, a senior executive at a major US food
company. Mark Whitaker, played by Hollywood actor Matt Damon, voluntarily collects price-fixing evidence while working covertly for the FBI. The price-fixing concerned the efforts of three companies to raise the price of animal feed „additive‟ lysine. The three companies were American (ADM), Japanese (Ajinomoto) and South Korean (Sewon America; Cheil. Jedang). The stress and lack of psychological support during the years of undercover spying bring out some very quirky personality traits in Whitaker (Damon). .

An informant: A person who provides privileged information about a person
or organization to an agency. The term „informant‟ is usually used within the world of law enforcement, where they are officially known as confidential or criminal informants (CI). The term can often refer negatively to the act of supplying information without the permission of the other parties with the intent of malicious, personal or financial gain. In „The Informant‟, we see Matt Damon „informing‟ on his co-workers because of corrupt business deals involving millions of dollars.


Part 1: Opening section (0:00 to 4’):
1. What did you think of the music? What impression did it give you?

2. Did the music ‘fit in’ with the images? 3. What impression do you get of Mark Whitaker from the opening of the film? You know that orange juice you have every morning? You know what's in that? Corn. And you know what's in the maple syrup on your pancakes? You know what makes it taste so good? Corn. When you're good and help with the trash...you know what makes the big, green bags biodegradable? Do you? Corn. Corn starch. But Daddy's company didn't come up with that one. DuPont did. Porsche or Porsche? I‟ve heard it both ways. Three years in Germany, I should know. What's German for 'corn'? The German word I really like is kugelschreiber. That's 'pen.' All those syllables just for 'pen.' Archer Daniels Midland. Most people have never heard of us. Chances are, they've never had a meal we're not part of. Just read the side of the package. That's us. Now ADM is taking the dextrose from the corn...and turning it into an amino acid called lysine. It's all very scientific. If you're a stockholder...all that matters is corn goes in one end...and profit comes out the other. We have the largest lysine plantin the world. That's where I come in. “Hey, Kirk. - Mark. When are we gonna hit some balls? - Anytime.” What do they pay Kirk? What does a guy like that get? I bet he gets a hundred grand. He's just gonna sit behind that desk and ride it into the future. Good morgen. Morning, Mark. - Morning. They have lysine results. Great. ( Results are all in red signifying something negative).


Part 2:

Importance of the music in the soundtrack

Soundtrack music is an important feature of most movies. Music is carefully selected or composed to set the mood and support the feelings of scenes, whether they are exciting, romantic, or silly. Movie music is most often subliminal, or hardly noticed, as it supports the action and dialogue. Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch used music very purposefully in The Informant. His music included a variety of popular genres, including secret agent, polka, bluegrass, big band, and game show. The music was frequently used at the beginning of new scenes, but also played through and over dialogue. Questions: 1. 2. Does music playing over dialogue suggest that a dialogue is unimportant, and that music communicates the main message of the scene?

Might viewers find music a distraction, or will they understand that it is important to the tone and mood of each scene? 3. Can music match a scene‟s mood, or provide a contrast or counterpoint to the mood? 4. How does music support the comedic nature of „The Informer‟? Example scene 1 (10:00 to 11:00) The FBI? Why do you have to talk to the FBI? It's their plant. Just... Just let them talk to the FBI. Babe, I am really uncomfortable with this. There are some things that are going on here. What does that mean, 'things'? It just...It means that we have to be careful. Well, whatever you do, Corky, no matter what's going on...just be honest with them and tell them the truth, okay? He said he wanted the money wired...into a numbered account in Switzerland...and then also in the Caribbean. Uh... And when did you last have contact with him?


Example scene 2 (12:00 to 14:00)
“..that's it, then. I can go? Listen. Why don't...? Ahem. I'd like to come out tomorrow, get on that phone. - Great. No problem. Thank you for your time. - Thank you. You told the truth, Mark. That's all you can do. - I never even had the chance. They were watching me the whole time. Cheviron was in the room.” Mick Andreas gets the vice president of the United States as his godfather. He goes to Richard Nixon's house for Thanksgiving. It's not like his parents died in a car accident...and he ended up in an orphanage. Mick's dad wrote a check to the Nixon campaign. It wound up in the account of the Watergate burglars. Did he admit it? I don't think so. Besides, ADM probably owns the FBI. They probably wanted me to move into Dwayne's old house...because they got it wired like in a Crichton novel. Marty Allison called. And Sid wants to know if you can have dinner at 7:00 instead of 7:30.

Part 3:

Importance of sound editing.

Sound editing, especially of dialogue, plays a very important role in The Informant. Viewers frequently hear Mark Whitacre’s voice speaking over actions and dialogue. The voice-overs are non-sequitors, or statements disconnected from the subjects of the scenes. Example scene 1 (20:30 to 21:15)
FBI 人 A pound of bacon, a peanut butter sandwich, some vitamins: anything that ADM has : a hand in, it's all fixed. That's what he's telling me. I mean, basically...everyone in this country is a victim of corporate crime by the time they finish breakfast. MS: “You think the automobile companies can't make a car...that gets 100 miles to the gallon? You think the networks don't know who'll win the World Series...before the season starts? Paranoid is what people who are trying to take advantage...call you to get you to drop your guard. I read that in an in-flight magazine.”

1. What meaning do you think viewers might take from these non-sequitor voice-overs? 2. What impressions of Whitacre do you get?


Part 4:

Importance of Cinematography

Just as the music and sound are placed purposefully in The Informant, the cinematic representations also change according to the mood and setting. Business meetings with foreign executives and domestic scenes in Decatur have a very different look than hotel room and parking lot meetings with FBI agents. The light in the business meetings and home is bright, and people are easy to see. The light in the hotel rooms and parking lots is often dim and sometimes behind Whitacre, making it hard to see him clearly. How might these differences in lighting influence the way that viewers feel when watching the scenes? Does some of the cinematography have a documentary feeling? Might that documentary feeling make viewers feel like they are eavesdropping on clandestine conversations? There is much camera movement in The Informant, especially when Whitacre is entering a new city or office building. The camera often stops, however, when the conversations begin. How might the alternations between moving camera at the beginning of the scenes and stationary camera during the conversations influence viewers‟ responses to Whitacre‟s adventures?

Consider the cinematography in the examples below:
Example 1: (Whitacre‟s office / Whitacre‟s home / informing to FBI at home) 23:10 to 27:30 Example 2: (Before/after meeting FBI for a lie detector test) 36:55 to 41:05) MW: “Mick Andreas and his dad would never lie for me. They say we're in it together. What a joke. Team-building offsite meetings at some lake in Wisconsin.I can't protect these guys if they're breaking the law. Hey, I tried. Anybody could see the choices I had. I did my best for ADM. You don't see them here in the chair.”


“… I know it's tough...keeping it all bottled up inside, keeping it a secret. But there's only one good choice for you.That's all there's ever been. There's something you're not telling us...but the only way to protect yourself is to be completely honest. Okay. Okay. You realize...that this can all be used against you in a court of law. I'll have to write it all up, and you'll have to sign it. We're going to find out what's going on, Mark. You're not leaving this room until you tell us what's going on. So before you answer any more questions...I want you to think about Ginger...and your family, and your career…” …

Part 5: Casting:

Importance of Casting

Steven Soderbergh purposefully cast several

comedians in key roles including Tom Papa (Mick Andreas, senior partner) and Tom Wilson (Mark Cheviron, ADM security. While he cast comedians in these roles, he did not direct them to play their roles as comedic. Do you think these casting choices contribute to the comedic quality of The Informant?  Should the actors have been directed to be funnier?  How might over-the-top performances by these comedians have changed the movie experience?  How does Matt Damon communicate humour of Mark Whitacre‟s actions and speech?


Part 6: Costume Design:

Importance of Costume Design Media construct reality, but so do people.

Mark Whitacre wore a wig during his years at ADM. He chose his clothing, especially his ties, very carefully. The Informant‟s costume designer created costumes that would support Whitacre‟s character. Note Whitacre‟s clothes, and especially his ties.
 How are they different from others‟ clothing in the ADM office?  How are they different from the FBI agents‟ clothing?  Did you notice that Matt Damon was wearing a wig?  What might the clothes and wig tell viewers about Whitacre‟s character?  Note Ginger‟s (Whitacre‟s wife) clothing and hair styling. How do they support her innocence and straightforward worldview? a) 47:00 to 49:00 (Meeting with Japanese reps) b) 54:50 to 55:35 (Talking with wife) c) 1‟18:20 to 1‟22:40


Part 7a: The concept of ‘delusion’
„We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.‟
The Eagles, Hotel California

Delusions are unfounded, illogical, or irrational beliefs. They are often self-imposed, i.e., created and believed by the originator of the beliefs, rather than created and imposed by someone else. Mark Whitacre in The Informant has delusions that his crimes are not comparable to the crimes of his company. The Informant use codes and conventions of cinematography, music, voice, editing, to help viewers consider questions such as:    Was Mark Whitacre delusional? Was he a victim or perpetrator? Did the FBI take unfair advantage of him by asking him to work undercover for years without training or psychological support?

Part 7b: The concept of ‘recovery’
The Informant is based on a novel that retells a true story. The real Mark Whitacre has served his time in prison, been released, and rejoined his family. He is employed as a senior executive, but:  How might The Informant influence Mr. Whitacre‟s personal and professional life now?  How do you think his friends might respond to seeing The Informant?  How might his family (wife, son, parents) respond to seeing The Informant?  How might seeing The Informant influence his co-workers and clients?
See clip 1‟43:05


Part 8:

Telltale analogies in the ‘text’

When Whitacre talks to himself he uses „telltale analogies‟ which give us an understanding of his state of mind: 1. „There are harmless butterflies in South America whose wings copy the colours and patterns of butterflies whose wings are lethal to birds of prey.‟ 2. „Polar bears hide their noses during hunting because seals can recognize them if they see their black noses on their white faces.‟ 3. „There should be a TV show about a guy who calls home one day and he‟s there. He answers... only it‟s someone else. He‟s somehow divided into two...‟

Part 9: Movies and Politics.
The Informant is a movie which may influence people beyond entertaining them because the issues they raise have entered public discourse and influenced foreign policy – A. Is The Informant as important as say „Wikileaks‟? B. Is The Informant a movie that everyone should see, so that consumers and governments will be tough when there are possibilities of price-fixing among major corporations?

C. What other industries would you suggest should be investigated? Online references:
a) The Informant script: http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/i/the-informa nt-script-transcript.html b) Beyond The Screen resources: http://www.beyondthescreen.com/episodes/season_02/info rmant

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