The Informer

 

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Joel Kinnaman stars as an undercover FBI agent out of his depth in Andrea Di Stefano’s highly unpleasant but proficient thriller.

   

Informer, The

Prisoner of conscience: Joel Kinnaman 

  

For such a brutal, cold-blooded thriller, The Informer is surprisingly affecting. It’s not that there are any characters with a trace of recognisable humanity, just the unbearable situation of an innocent man who wants to be reunited with his wife and daughter. Throughout the film’s 113 minutes, Joel Kinnaman barely registers a flicker of emotion. Whether picnicking with his ten-year-old daughter or confronting a gun-wielding Polish mobster, he displays the same inscrutable mask. We know what he must be feeling, so maybe the clenched-teeth look is the only way to go.

 

The screenplay is an adaptation of Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström's 2009 novel Three Seconds and the plot is a good one. It’s one of those rock-and-a-hard-place scenarios in which everybody turns a blind eye for the greater good. The Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman plays Peter Koslow, an undercover FBI agent trapped in a highly volatile sting operation involving the Polish mob. When, inevitably, things go belly-up, Koslow is deserted by his colleagues so that the department can keep its nose clean. So Koslow keeps his cover and agrees to go to prison – taking the rap for the murder of a New York cop – so that inside he can deal ‘pink’ (synthetic heroin) for ‘The General’, the Polish drug tsar that he has been instructed to bring down. Meanwhile, both legal and illegal colleagues use Koslow’s wife and daughter as collateral – not that their word counts for much…

 

Directed with taut close-ups and throbbing intensity by the Italian actor-filmmaker Andrea Di Stefano, the film sucks the viewer in from the start. It doesn’t take long for us to know that Koslow is surrounded by a web of extremely dangerous people and that nobody really gives a toss for his safety. There’s just way too much at stake for everybody. Di Stefano has a story to tell and he serves his material with savage efficiency, guiding the narrative into ever-tighter corners.

 

The sole leavening ingredient in the thriller’s sour dough is the presence of Rosamund Pike as an FBI operative, whose face betrays any conscience the film may have going for it. Her performance is an exemplar of ambiguity and unfolds the map by which the audience can navigate its way through the gathering darkness. Others in the cast have less to play with – Clive Owen as an impenetrable Fed, Matthew Marsh as a vacillating official and a characteristically one-dimensional Sam Spruell as a sadistic prison warden. Better are Eugene Lipinski as the calm and cruel Polish kingpin and Ruth Bradley as a lesbian addition to New York’s finest. Interestingly, all of the above are English performers playing Americans, which would explain the trio of credited dialect coaches. The film, a British production, was actually shot at Pinewood Studios, but one would never know it. It breathes authenticity through every shot and while both generic and deeply unpleasant, it exercises a commanding grip on the viewer’s attention – and their heartbeat.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Common, Ana de Armas, Clive Owen, Sam Spruell, Ruth Bradley, Eugene Lipinski, Martin McCann, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Arturo Castro, Matthew Marsh, Karma Meyer.

 

Dir Andrea Di Stefano, Pro Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Mark Lane, Robert Jones, James Harris and Wayne Marc Godfrey, Screenplay Matt Cook, Andrea Di Stefano and Rowan Joffe, Ph Daniel Katz, Pro Des Mark Scruton, Ed Job ter Burg, Music Brooke Blair and Will Blair, Costumes Molly Emma Rowe.

 

Thunder Road Pictures/The Fyzz Facility-Warner Bros.

113 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 30 August 2019. Cert. 15.