The Informant (2009)

Rated R. Our ratings: V-1 ; L- 3; S/N-2 Running time: 1 hour 48 min.

The Lord has made himself known,
he has executed judgement;
the wicked are snared in the work of their
own hands.
Psalm 9:16

Words spoken by the wise bring them favor, but the lips of fools consume them.
The words of their mouths begin in foolishness, and their talk ends in wicked madness; yet fools talk on and on.
No one knows what is to happen, and who can tell anyone what the future holds?
The toil of fools wears them out, for they do not even know the way to town.
Ecclesiastes 10:12-15

Mark talks with an FBI agent about his superiors price fixing scheme.

2009 Warner Brothers Pictures

Although played for its comedic elements, this film by director Steven Soderbergh is based on a real life whistle blower at Archer Daniels Midland, among the top fifty of US corporations. Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) aspires to become the CEO of his company by informing on his superiors’ long time practice of price fixing with international firms. He agrees to become an FBI informant, wearing a wire to record business meetings—and he is delusional enough to believe that after his superiors are arrested and removed that the board will move him up to lead the company.

At first Soderbergh’s film, based on Kurt Eichenwald’s 2000 book, seems like another version of The Insider, a film based on an executive’s revelation of the tobacco industry’s deceptions, but the latter half of The Informant is far more complicated, very much like a Chinese puzzle box. As the months and years pass by, the FBI agents and federal attorney try to make sense of the conflicting stories that their spy tells them, eventually discovering that he has had an agenda that he has kept hidden from them. Brad Pitt is delightful as Mark Whitacre, the executive who eventually, due to his nefarious machinations, served a longer prison sentence than any of the crooked executives whom he brought down. (The company was fined $100 million and paid another $400 million in a class action lawsuit.) The psalmists, decrying “the wicked” who become ensnared in their own traps, would have enjoyed this film, though, as we see at the end, there is more than just a moral lapse to the story.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. What do you think of Mark Whitacre? How is he any better morally/ethically than the men he is informing on? How does his case show the importance of motivation in evaluating a person—that is what are his motives for becoming an informant?

2. How is his story a good example of what the writer of the psalm meant about the wicked becoming snared “in the work of their own hands” ?

3. Would you say that Mark is wicked, or more foolish, in the light of the passage from Ecclesiastes?