Music Box Films / 2013 / 81 mins / NR
Informant asks the hard question of what makes a hero. Brandon Darby is a man who just wanted to do the right thing. He risked his life to save a friend during the hurricane in New Orleans and continued to help the community in the tough aftermath. After his noble efforts, Brandon's views made him shift his focus to a position which seemed unpopular and evil by many: being an FBI informant on radical activists.
To be specific, Brandon became an inside man for a group of activists who rioted against the Republican National Convention of 2008 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He kept tabs and wore wires, detailing every bit action on the group. This includes taking part in the violent Saint Paul riots. Eventually, he was able to put away two of the activists after he had sufficient evidence that they were creating Molotov cocktails (technically an illegal weapon). After this incident, Brandon publically admitted his role per the conditions for turning in the activists. This led to death threats from many activists not just for Brandon being a snitch, but that he may have encouraged the convicted activists to create the Molotov cocktails in the first place.
The film delves into the life of Brandon Darby both before and after the Republican National Convention. His moral landscape was taken on an interesting journey through both his involvement in New Orleans and his childhood in general. It's a portrait of a complicated man who just wanted to do right even if it didn't seem to be the most glamorous life. At the same time, the film also has several interviews from his critics who either confirm his fueling of the fire or that Brandon is just plain insane.
This documentary was very well assembled. There are a lot of interviews and footage from both New Orleans and Saint Paul, but also some dramatizations with Brandon Darby himself. Interesting to note about the reenactments is that they actually go behind the scenes of Darby working on his lines with overlapping interviews of the convicted objecting to Brandon's interpretation. It makes for one of the most balanced documentaries on such a topic I've seen in quite some time.
So is Brandon really a hero? That may be too high a title to bestow, but what counts is that his heart was in the right place in that he just didn't want to see anybody get hurt. Considering he stood up to a group that encouraged a destructive riot and later made threats against his life, Brandon is undeniably brave. He may have had the best intentions, but sometimes it is far easier to say than do. In that sense, Brandon Darby may have been operating on a level that has grown so complicated and dangerous that he doubts his own actions. Right before the two men were convicted, the FBI told Brandon that if he did this it would change his life forever. He accepted and it makes one wonder if he truly did comprehend what would follow.
Informant is an amazing look at a conflicted man who threw himself into dangerous situations for what he considered to be a noble cause. Whether you agree or disagree with his actions, Brandon Darby is very human in that his sense of morality and justice bend as the world changes. It's incredibly provocative and warrants enough discussion that it's a definite recommendation just for the sake of analysis alone.