Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!” takes on an incredibly dull subject- mid west chemical company involved in possible price fixing- and throws in loose comedic swipes with a toupeed and slightly chunky Matt Damon doing his best to shed any Jason Bourne stereotypes. Unfortunately, not a whole lot livens this movie up. Retro music is keyed at the right moments and stream of conscience voice overs lull the viewer into a state of perplexity. Gradually, “The Informant!” shows us that our main character (though seemingly doing the right thing and turning government informer) is just as corrupt and maddening as the system of greed and negligent conduct he’s trying to extinguish. Soderbergh is a director I highly admire. On paper, his other film this year titled “The Girlfriend Experience” should have been the real clunker. Instead, that film’s visual experimentation and abstract ideas run circles around the more polished and safe “The Informant!”.
Cary Fukunaga’s “Sin Nombre” is a vibrant debut film. Full of haunting images both violent and humble, Fukunaga’s camera eeks out beauty in the most unexpected places- such as the shadowy figures of people lumbering on a top of a train, the way blood darkens the water around a body and especially the final image of a young girl (Paulina Gaitan) bathed in sunlight as she talks on a pay phone. Taking as his protagonist a dead-head gang member who runs from his past and finds redemption in the sweetness of a young girl “Sin Nombre” makes emotional leaps with little effort, mainly due to the magnetic performances of its two leads. This guy’s going to be good.
The Burning Plain
Early on in Guillermo Arriaga’s “The Burning Plain”, I begin to wish for less of his non-linear storytelling style. But after the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, the film would probably lose some impact if told traditionally. Charlize Theron is a damaged woman living in Portland. A man (Jose Yazpick) seems to be following her. In a more sunny environment, Kim Basinger is having an affair with Mexican Nick (Joaquim de Almeida). Her daughter, Mariana (Jennifer Lawrence) suspects the worst. Frenetic editing and jumbled time lines round out Arriaga’s gloomy parable of crossed generations and mixed culture attractions. And even though Arriaga relies on the heavy handed usage of things like scars, “The Burning Plain” does succeed as another potpourri of crashing story lines and damaged relationships- something he’s become very comfortable with after films like “21 Grams”, “The Three Burials of Melquiadas Estrada” and “Babel”.