Matt Damon in The InformantIt's hard to believe that Matt Damon has only been nominated for an acting Oscar once -- yep, count it, once -- in his career, and that was for his breakthrough performance in 1997's 'Good Will Hunting.' He's just been so darned good in everything he's done in the last decade -- playing a creepy Speedo-clad killer ('The Talented Mr. Ripley'), beating the bejesus out of bad guys with a rolled-up magazine (the super-successful 'Bourne' movies), or making moviegoers' skin crawl with disgust as a crooked Baaahsten cop ('The Departed') -- it's pretty much unfathomable to think he's posted a big whopping goose egg since then. Oh, but he has. Matt Damon in The InformantIt's hard to believe that Matt Damon has only been nominated for an acting Oscar once -- yep, count it, once -- in his career, and that was for his breakthrough performance in 1997's 'Good Will Hunting.' He's just been so darned good in everything he's done in the last decade -- playing a creepy Speedo-clad killer ('The Talented Mr. Ripley'), beating the bejesus out of bad guys with a rolled-up magazine (the super-successful 'Bourne' movies), or making moviegoers' skin crawl with disgust as a crooked Baaahsten cop ('The Departed') -- it's pretty much unfathomable to think he's posted a big whopping goose egg since then. Oh, but he has.

That could all change this year, thanks to his masterful turn in the Steven Soderbergh-directed black comedy 'The Informant!' (now in theaters). Damon gained 30 pounds via the Morgan Spurlock McDonald's "diet," grew out a sweet handlebar mustache and donned one of the most obvious toupees in the history of obvious toupees to play real-life whistleblower Mark Whitacre, a high-ranking executive at agribusiness behemoth Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) who, in the early 1990s, turned informant to help the FBI prosecute his employers for price-fixing.

But don't be fooled: This isn't 'The Insider: Part Deux.' Playing this opaque fellow, who becomes so hilariously detached from reality that he envisions himself as some kind of 007-esque superspy and the salvation of ADM, Damon is at once a comic leading man, a heartbreaking tragic hero and an irascible corporate villain -- and he balances these opposing facets of Whitacre's persona with such precision it's hard to know how to feel about him. One minute you're cheering for him, the next you're slapping your forehead wondering how he could be such a dense a-hole.

And that's the beauty of the performance. Watching Damon reveal Whitacre is like leaning over someone as they peel an onion, gradually discarding the outer layers until you've seen all there is to see. And that's when you realize there are tears in your eyes. Sure, they're probably tears of laughter, but there's also a chance they're tears of compassion. Or maybe onions just make you cry. Regardless, there is one thing that is certain: It's time for Damon's Oscar nomination drought to end, and this should be the movie that makes it rain.


'The Informant!' showtimes & tickets
Must-See Fall Movies | Editor's Pick: 'The Informant!'
Toronto Film Festival Highlights | Toronto Film Fest's Best-Reviewed Movies
And the Oscar Buzz Goes to ... Christoph Waltz for 'Inglourious Basterds'