The Informant! parents guide

The Informant! Parent Guide

As this offbeat, talkative, legal thriller progresses, a very interesting lesson about honesty emerges.

Overall B-

The FBI think they have a lead on an ongoing case of corporate crime when Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), one of the company's top executives, acts as an informant and agrees to gather evidence. However, as the investigation unfolds, Whitacre's spy aspirations and delusions of grandeur have the agents scratching their heads and trying to uncover the man's real reasons for becoming a whistleblower.

Release date September 18, 2009

Violence B
Sexual Content B-
Profanity D
Substance Use B-

Why is The Informant! rated R? The MPAA rated The Informant! R for language.

Run Time: 108 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

The old adage that the best stories are true couldn’t be better supported than by the real life experiences of Mark Whitacre (played by Matt Damon in this movie), infamously known as the highest-ranking executive to ever become a whistle blower in US history. The Informant! presents this period of Whitacre’s life, when he turned the boardroom tables on his employers at the food giant ADM (Archer Daniels Midland).

ADM deals in corn—lots of corn. “Corn goes in one end and profit comes out the other,” explains Whitacre in an ongoing “thought bubble” narration. From all this corn, ADM manufactures a food additive called lysine. But when a problem with the production process is discovered, the Ivy League educated science nerd blames it on corporate espionage caused by a Japanese competitor. That brings in FBI agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula). But when Shepard meets with Whitacre, the insider immediately makes a stunning confession that the lysine issue is actually a plan to price fix the commodity worldwide.

Aside from wondering why the executive would put his high-flying career on the line, Shepard is overcome with the implications of the information. If it were true, it would lead to a massive investigation and exposure of a huge scheme. Asking if Whitacre would agree to wear a wire and assist the government in a covert operation, the bespectacled man seizes the opportunity with the gusto of a newly commissioned James Bond.

Director Steven Soderbergh (who directed the corporate killer Erin Brockovich in 2000) is known for a unique brand of quirkiness that can be seen in abundance here. Finding humor in a true story that leads to multiple arrests and the observation that Whitacre is suffering from a mental condition (in reality he suffers from a bipolar disorder) is difficult to do without becoming distasteful. Yet, this director pulls it off with panache, and even manages to keep the content in this MPAA R-rated movie down to a minimum, with the exception of language. (Even then, compared to Brockovich, this one is mild.) Viewers can expect to hear about nine sexual expletives, along with some other scatological and anatomical terms.

As this offbeat, talkative, legal thriller progresses, a very interesting lesson about honesty emerges. And if you aren’t familiar with Whitacre’s story, you might want to avoid reading archived news accounts until after you’ve seen the film. That way the revelations will be even more astonishing. While it’s not a family movie, it might be something parents could share with their oldest teens, provided they can tolerate the language. Of course, no one knows all of the little details of conversations that happened behind closed doors, yet this is one of those amazing tales that will leave you shaking your head and asking, “Was that guy for real?”

Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Matt Damon, Tony Hale, Patton Oswalt. Running time: 108 minutes. Theatrical release September 18, 2009. Updated

The Informant!
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Informant! rated R? The Informant! is rated R by the MPAA for language.

Rated R in the US by the MPAA, this movie’s biggest content issue is language. The sexual expletive is used at least nine times, along with about a dozen scatological references, a few crude anatomical terms and a half-dozen mild profanities and terms of deity. Violence involves the theme of dishonesty and some mild verbal threats. Sexual content is limited to a woman who pulls a tissue from her blouse (presumably in her bra) to blow her nose, a couple of very brief moments of innuendo and characters seen in a revealing skirt and swimwear. A comment about drugs is heard. A few portrayals of social drinking are included.

Page last updated

The Informant! Parents' Guide

Do you think the consequences brought upon Mark Whitacre by the legal system were appropriate? What were the mitigating factors in his life that may have motivated him to make the decisions he did?

Mark Whitacre’s story is still ongoing. A search of his name on the Internet will reveal a multitude of curious tidbits up to the present day. One of interest is from the Decatur Illinois Herald-Review (the community where Mark worked for ADM).

Mr. Whitacre has earned a PhD in Biochemistry from Cornell and is currently serving as COO and President of Operations for a California biotech company. He has also spoken candidly about the good and bad choices he made, saying, “As I have shown, people can do heroic acts and make mistakes simultaneously.” His website, includes many links and articles dealing with the actual story. Be sure to look at his thoughts on business ethics.

The book The Informant was authored by New York Times report Kurt Echenwald, who covered Mr. Whitacre’s case. Lately Mr. Echenwald has been in the press for issues relating to journalism ethics.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of The Informant! movie is February 16, 2010. Here are some details…

Release Date: February 16, 2010

The Informant releases to DVD with the following bonus extras:
- Additional scenes
The Informant! also releases on Blu-ray Disc in a Combo Pack. This package includes:
- Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copies of the film.
- Audio commentary with Director Steven Soderbergh and Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns.
- Additional scenes.

Related home video titles:

In Breach, a young FBI agent gets pulled into an intricate and dangerous investigation to uncover a double agent. And in A Beautiful Mind, a mathematical genius is convinced he is lending his talents to break up a conspiracy, but his family and friends instead fear he is mentally ill. Both of these movies are also based on true stories.