In 1992, Mark Whitacre (played here by Matt Damon, beneath 30 pounds of pudge and a toupee) was a golden boy at Archer Daniels Midland with a big problem: His attempts to create an amino acid by feeding corn to microbes were failing, thanks to a virus in the vats. And so he blamed his troubles on corporate sabotage and wound up with the FBI tapping his home phone. Which led to his confession to the FBI that ADM officials were conspiring on a price-fixing scheme. Which led to his wearing a wire for three years. Which led to ADMs discovery that hed been embezzling millions. Which led to prison. For everyone. Journalist Kurt Eichenwalds 2000 book about his five years spent trailing the bipolar fuck-up is so densely, richly packed with gut-wrenching what-the-what? revelations that its easy to speed through the 600-plus pages thinking it's a novel. Which, for some reason, wasnt good enough for writer Scott Z. Burns and director Steven Soderbergh, who frame their film adaptation between quotation marks. The irony hits fast and hard: the score by Marvin Hamlisch, offering a 1970s best-of; the flat, blindingly washed-out look shot in HD but borrowed from an episode of Dallas; the stunt casting of comics (Patton Oswalt, The Soups Joel McHale, Paul F. Tomkins, the Smothers Brothers) in dead-serious roles; title cards whose font went out of style with shag carpet. Soderbergh sure has a lot of gimmicksthe man's working hard.
Wed., Jan. 6, 2, 7:15 & 9:30 p.m.; Thu., Jan. 7, 7:15 & 9:30 p.m., 2010