It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Mark Whitacre was the highest-ranking executive in U.S. history to blow the whistle in a case of corporate fraud. He ended up with a prison sentence three times longer than any of the criminal executives he exposed. To be sure, there was the detail of the $9 million that he embezzled along the way for his personal use. What we discover toward the end of “The Informant!” may help explain that theft, although he apparently didn't want that used in his defense.
Whitacre, persuasively played by Matt Damon in Steven Soderbergh's new thriller, was a top vice president of Archer Daniels Midland in Decatur, one of the 50 largest corporations in America. Sprawling at the edge of the small central Illinois city, it is surrounded by miles of soybean fields, and if you buy Japanese tofu at Whole Foods, it probably passed through ADM on its way to Japan. It's also involved in several other crops, produces sweeteners, sells ethanol.
Whitacre knew that ADM and its competitors were engaged in global price-fixing that cost consumers billions. This largess was passed on invisibly to executives and stockholders, yet created a surprisingly small footprint in central Illinois, Yes, executives lived in very nice houses (Soderbergh shot in Whitacre's mansion in tiny Moweaqua, Ill.) but they were low-profile, compared to Manhattan high-rollers, and ate at the local restaurants just like ordinary folks.
The story unfolds as Whitacre is put under pressure to discover the source of contamination, possibly industrial sabotage, in one of ADM's operations. He engages in unofficial conversations with key competitors overseas and thinks he may be onto something. Then FBI agents from Decatur swoop down as part of an espionage probe. He clears himself, but as the agents (Scott Bakula and Joel McHale) are leaving, he calls after them.