Finally, we have what may be a bonafide, sure-thing, Oscar-caliber performance: Matt Damon in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!”
It’s an adaptation from New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald’s 2000 book of the same name (minus the wonderfully absurd exclamation point). It appears Soderbergh has taken the book, which I don’t think was intended to be humorous or satirical, and made it humorous and satirical.
Also: Scott Bakula! When was the last time you saw Scott Bakula in a big-budget flick? Remember “Necessary Roughness?” Underrated movie. (Sinbad!) Regardless, Bakula appears to have performed nicely in this.
Damon also looks very good: funny, conniving, hypocritical. He really is an interesting actor, and I’m not sure there’s anyone out there able to do what he does the way he does it (which, admittedly, makes little sense). You watch a guy like Philip Seymour Hoffman — that guy transforms himself. He’s a drastically different person from one role to the next, a friggin’ shapeshifter. He’s Lester Bangs, then he’s Truman Capote, then he’s Owen Davian. Damon doens’t necessarily do that, though he plays significantly different characters.
He changes the way he approaches each character in delicate, elusive ways. He doesn’t change his appearance much. In fact, since he killed it in “Good Will Hunting,” I don’t think he’s looked drastically different, including in “Stuck On You,” in which he was literally attached to Greg Kinnear for 90 minutes. Damon looks like he packed on about 30 or 40 pounds to play Mark Whitacre, a big agribusiness company vice president who leaks information about an illegal price-fixing scheme to the FBI, which launches an undercover investigation. Whitacre was considered one of — if not indisputably — the biggest private sector informant in U.S. history. He was an Ivy League-educated nutritional biochemist, who, it turned out, also suffered from mental illness — an issue that would lead to shocking revelations over the course of his years-long partnership with the FBI.
Even so, in moments of this trailer, you can see pieces of Damon in his character. His comedic timing, for instance, is similar to his character Linus Caldwell from the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies. But he’s a very valuable actor for one reason alone — his intelligence. Stanley Kubrick said the only thing an actor cannot fake is intelligence. There were lots of dumb people who were pretty good actors, but when it came time to play a character who was smart, they usually exposed themselves.
Kubrick was right. (Think Jessica Alba as a scientist in the “Fantastic Four” movies.) Damon is a smart, Ivy League-educated guy who spends hours in libraries researching his characters before he goes on set. He takes a cerebral approach to acting, and he’s not prone to the wild histrionics of, say, Gary Oldman or Will Smith. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a Damon character explode in a movie or lose composure. … Probably “Good Will Hunting.” That’s kind of interesting now that I mention it. He really doens’t play emotionally vibrant characters. They’re always exacting and calm. Is that a weakness, perhaps? Who knows.
Regardless, expect to see Damon nominated for an Oscar. I’m calling it.
And here’s a link to the nice-looking trailer.
(I’ll also direct you to HodgeBlodge, a cooler-looking blog than mine with a superior “Informant!” headline: “Have You Been Informed: Scott’s Backula!”)