The Informant!

Playful tale of corporate misdeeds may interest some teens.
  • Review Date: September 17, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 108 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.


Some intense arguments.


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


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


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.

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.

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, THE INFORMANT! 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.

Families can talk about...

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


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


  • 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

Theatrical release date:September 18, 2009
DVD release date:February 23, 2010
Cast:Joel McHale, Matt Damon, Scott Bakula
Director:Steven Soderbergh
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:108 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 17 years old Written bywhitesoxbuff March 18, 2010
age 13+
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Parent of a 13 year old Written bydocpainter October 1, 2009
age 12+
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. The extent of Matt Damon's character's mental illness was underplayed compared to the real life story on which it is based.
Adult Written bykhan2705 May 29, 2011
age 15+

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, inadvertently revealing his penchant for helping himself to the corporate coffers and ultimately threatening to derail the very investigation he helped to launch in this offbeat comedy from Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh. Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) was fast rising through the ranks at agri-industry powerhouse Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) when he became savvy to the company's multinational price-fixing conspiracy, and decided to turn evidence for the FBI. Convinced that he'll be hailed as a hero of the people for his efforts, Whitacre agrees to wear a wire in order to gather the evidence needed to convict the greedy money-grabbers at ADM. Unfortunately, both the case -- and Whitacre's integrity -- are compromised when FBI agents become frustrated by their informant's ever-shifting account, and discover that he isn't exactly the saintly figure he made himself out to be. Unable to discern reality from Whitacre's fantasy as they struggle to build their case against ADM, the FBI watches in horror as the highest-ranking corporate bust in U.S. history threatens to implode before their very eyes. Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, and Melanie Lynskey co-star. well again a movie that i rated Not Interested previously but it was on TV so i saw it, it is happening alot nowadays lol. this movie is really different and odd movie, a little strange too. but i liked it, it is really interesting movie to watch i was really amused by it, it is a really intelligent quirky funny spy movie. Matt Damon stars as Mark Whitacre, he lies lies and more lies to cover the previous ones and towards the end he gets caught up really bad. i really liked this thing that even towards the end it kept me guessing, i had no idea it was him who was lying, that is so weird i loved it. movie is really in a narrative way, as in Matt Damon's character whatever he thinks is narrated and you will love it, after the story, acting and the funny premise of it, it is something to like and enjoy. Matt Damon wen't on a complete physical transformation for this role as you can see, he seems really good in it and strange too. he was really underrated in this movie he did an amazing job in this movie i really liked his performance. loved it. Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey, Rick Overton , Tom Papa , Tony Hale , Adam Paul etc co stars. they are just above average in it but the real star here is Matt Damon. he is the reason i loved this movie and so will you. i admit that story in interesting and enjoyable screenplay is okay not very good, it is slow and dull at places. direction is good for a weird spy comedy. Steven Soderberg, one of my favorites, i like him. he is good with comedies i must say. editing was good, cinematography and art direction were good too. go see it if you wan't to.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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