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Now or Then – The Informant! or The Insider?

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Now: The Informant! (2009)Then: The Insider (1999)

In some ways, Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! is the flip side of Michael Mann’s The Insider. Both movies are about dorky, family-man scientist types working at big agribusiness firms who expose wrongdoings they don’t like, while basically destroying their own lives in the process. But whereas (and perhaps because) Mann’s fact-based film took a dead serious approach to its tale, Soderbergh & Co. opt for a decidedly more oddball route. So how do these two movies stack up against each other, anyway?

The Actor!
The Informant!: Hunky Matt Damon very publicly gained 30 lbs. and donned a wig to play the average-looking Mark Whitacre.

The Insider: Hunky Russell Crowe very publicly gained 35 lbs.
and donned a wig to play the average-looking Jeffrey Wigand. (Being
Russell Crowe, however, he also went the extra mile and shaved his
head.)

The Whistleblower!

The Informant!: Mark Whitacre is a chemist who helps the Feds bring down an elaborate corporate price-fixing scheme at Archer Daniels Midland Corporation. Alas, he’s embezzling millions of dollars from the company at the same time.

The Insider: Jeffrey Wigand is a scientist who helps 60 Minutes expose his former employer’s attempts to cover up research about the addictive effects of cigarettes. Alas, he may have lied about being on the US Olympic judo team.

The Conspirators!

The Informant!: The chummy, back-slapping guys who run ADM are involved in an international scheme to fix the price of lysine, an animal feed additive.

The Insider: The operatically evil corporate snakes who run Brown & Williamson are not only covering up research proving that cigarettes are addictive, they’re actually trying to make them more addictive! Also, they threaten Wigand’s life and his family’s well-being.

The Investigators!

The Informant!: FBI Agents Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) and Robert Herndon (Joel McHale) fall for Mark’s story. When their superiors find out about Whitacre’s lies, the pair is removed from the case and the Feds start to investigate Whitacre himself.

The Insider: 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) heroically puts together Wigand’s explosive interview, only to have it be defanged by CBS management, who are afraid the lawsuit might scuttle their company’s impending sale to Westinghouse.

The Wife!

The Informant!: Although she’s concerned about her husband’s professional well-being, Ginger Whitacre (Melanie Lynskey) stands by him all the way — even up through his eventual conviction for embezzlement and imprisonment.

The Insider: Worried for her family’s safety, Liane Wigand (Diane Venora) files for divorce from her husband — despite the fact that he’s helping take down one of the most corrupt companies in the country.

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