Where God has his church, the saying goes, the devil will have his chapel. The state of Illinois is host to possibly the biggest, most blatant displays of both: South Barrington's Willow Creek Community Church, boasting 23,000 followers, is one of the most powerful megachurches in the country, and just a few hours' drive away in Decatur lies the modern corporate embodiment of pure evil ' the smoke-spewing home base of agricultural conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland. Here is a company that can't seem to go more than a couple of years without paying out millions for criminal wrongdoings (including allegations of child slavery and settlements over their destruction of rainforests and the very air we breathe) yet their revenues skyrocket every year, as does their influence with political leaders. ADM seemingly cannot be stopped, by God or otherwise.
That didn't prevent one whistleblower from at least putting a dent in their quarterly bottom line in the form of an FBI sting that cost the giant half a billion dollars; nothing to them, but you have to try, right?
As played by a hefty and lively Matt Damon, that real man (former ADM vice president Mark Whitacre), is a well- meaning, brilliant people person, a scientist thrust into the world of global finance and working his way up the ladder with a Horatio Alger backstory and a nerdy manner that never draws suspicion. That manner works well for him, both as an FBI informant tattling on his superiors in the hopes that he will be rewarded with a promotion and, simultaneously, as a personal embezzler. Damon's portrayal is complicated, amusing and somewhat heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven) can't finish with the same quirky gusto he begins with in the film. When Whitacre's business as the hero ends and fingers begin pointing back at him, every bit of energy is sucked out of the movie. ADM itself might be pleased to see the way the heat is taken off of them and directed toward the whistleblower, just as they'd always planned. The devil is tricky that way.