Opens December 3.
The versatile Steven Soderbergh‘s latest film is a dark comedy that feels like a cross between Catch Me If You Can and Burn After Reading. It’s set in the early 90s but you can never really be sure. Some details, like the brick-sized mobile phones and green text on antiquated computers, fit; others, from the retro jazzy score to the idyllic white-picket fence suburbia, suggest anything from the 50s to the 70s.
The protagonist is equally difficult to define. Portrayed convincingly by a moustache-totin’, heavy-set Matt Damon, he is Mark Whitacre, an executive for the agriculture company, Archer Daniels Midland. Outwardly an talkative idealist, his thoughts are rendered in a stream-of-consciousness voiceover in which he discusses such important questions as whether or not a polar bear considers its black nose a hindrance to its camouflage. After learning of a price-fixing conspiracy within ADM, and prompted by his wife, he becomes a whistleblower for the FBI and a makeshift undercover agent.
Not trained for the task, he nonetheless blithely manages to clandestinely record meetings and gather enough evidence to convict. Despite planning to expose his co-workers as frauds and swindlers, he naively believes he will still have a place at the company when the guilty are exposed.
Whitacre is an enigma to the other characters, the audience, and ultimately himself. His journey from the early scenes, which zip by in a blur of 1940s-esque dialogue, to the latter which examine the consequences of the investigation and Whitacre’s ever-evolving version of events, is both funny and engaging.
Drowned in a warm lather of yellows and oranges and accompanied by a prominent and bouncy score by Marvin Hamlisch, the film is beautifully constructed. Damon could very well garner Oscar consideration, and again proves that he’s both a superstar and a talented actor.