In between the voiceovers that showcase Mark’s erratic and sometime fascinating thoughts, we are brought into a world of corporate fraud and malfeasance. Mark is our main force behind Steven Soderbergs new intriguing and often very funny film. Mark Whitacre played by Matt Damon is a likeable yet complex character. As the film progresses through the 108 minutes of airtime, we are taken through unbelievable yet true events.
Mark works at ADM the gigantic food company in Illinois and is responsible for the production of Lysene a biproduct of corn that is used in countless types of food we eat. There is a virus that is stopping production of Lysene and the company is losing millions. We soon learn that the cause of this is a mole in the company and a resulting blackmail scheme to provide the remedy. Enter the FBI, Agent Shepard played by Scott Bakula and Agent Schmidt played by Eddie Jamison. Given an ultimatum by his wife played by Melanie Lynskey Mark tells the FBI of a far greater problem at ADM.
There is an illegal price fixing scheme in the works by the executives at ADM, working with competitors globally to ensure volumes and prices of Lysene are maintained to make maximum profit. The downstream effects of this ripple through the food chain and all that this additive becomes a part of.
To uncover this scheme Mark volunteers to go under cover and expose the executives who are involved in the scheme. Mark fancies himself something like a James Bond type of undercover agent. 007 (or as he calls himself 0014 because he is twice as smart) however he is not. As he goes undercover and exposes the fraud and gets all the evidence for the FBI to take the case to court, we start to see moments of his unraveling.
Unable or unwilling to take the advice of the FBI on key points to handle the pending onslaught of defensive tactics from the company and press attention, we see more vivid displays of the complex and perplexing nature of Mark. He is entwined in so many lies and even more instances where he seemingly refuses to stop speaking and telling people elements of the story that he ought not to speak of. Underpinning all of this is Mark’s own very illegal fraud scheme that comes out and the lies only reveal more surprises that shake our faith in Mark all the more.
The movie takes us through the details of the fraud with humor and insight but what really gets our attention if Mark himself, who the more we watch and learn about him the more we are in awe of how someone at his senior level in the company is in other ways so naïve yet so deceptive. And it’s the mystery of what drives him and his lies and receipt that is so very intriguing while so very entertaining.
The supporting cast filled with comedians playing very straight and serious roles gives another under toned type of comedy style which works so seamlessly with the style and look of the film. The situation, the corporate fraud and Marks own fraud would leave us totally unbelieving to the point of hilarity if it was true, but true it is and makes it all the funnier.