Imposter (2002)

Directed by Gary Fleder

The good news here is that I picked up this movie as a PV (previously viewed) DVD. The bad news is that I got it at all.

To be fair to Imposter, I wasn’t feeling particularly well when I watched it so that may have influenced my take on it. But I think even in the best circumstances I wouldn’t be able to raise much enthusiasm for it. And the thing is, especially hearing some of what the filmmakers were trying to do (from the special features), I really wanted to like this film.

To begin with, it’s filled with actors whose work I really enjoy, like Gary Senise. (He finally gets to play a lead character who isn’t a pschotic lunatic.) There’s also Madeleine Stowe, as well as Vincent D’Onofrio (who is so good in television’s Law & Lorder: Criminal Intent) and Tony Shaloub (who is great in The Man Who Wasn’t There).

But man, oh man … I kept looking at the clock to see how much time was left. (I remember looking at the time and seeing 37 minutes had run by and thinking, “Good Lord, it feels like hours!”).

So where’s the problem? I think it probably resides in the chunked nature of the film’s construction. The best parts of the film are the beginning and end; it’s the middle where it sags. As revealed in the special features, this isn’t exactly an accident.

Originally a short film (based on “The Imposter” by Philip K. Dick), it was felt the story deserved a feature film treatment. This, of course, means a bunch of middle had to be added. And while the intention is laudable, and some moments are excellent, this addition just doesn’t work. The movie sags beneath the weight of a whole whack o’ frames of film that, for the most part, are tedious.

At the core of the film, however, there is a really good idea. It’s the year 2079 and the world is in a vicious war with an alien species that wants the planet for itself. The character Gary Senise plays, a brilliant scientist working on the government’s war effort, wakes one morning to find his world turned upside down. He’s believed to be an alien assasin and there is no apparent way to prove he is or is not. As an audience, we’re on the side of Senise’s character but we’re never sure whether he is genuine or not either. Even Senise doesn’t really know.

There is a Kafka-like drama to the film. The middle portion, however, is where the story suddenly veers into an action-thriller. It’s only at the end when the movie returns to its original drama that it regains its momentum. (Admittedly, suspicion does inform the middle portion too.)

The film is best when it deals with the paranoia of the original situation (and this is pure Philip K. Dick country). It’s only when it wanders away from this into its action-suspense scenes that it droops.

So … This is a film that unfortunately turns out to be about an hour too long. It means well, and it achieves some excellent moments, but ultimately can’t finesse the transition from a short to feature film. It gets an A for effort but a D for execution.

© 2002 Piddleville Inc.

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