Review: “Imperium” Boasts Strong Acting but Rushes Through Story



Title: Imperium
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Great acting. Honest writing. Suspenseful.


Lack of timeline.

Posted August 19, 2016 by

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Daniel Radcliffe plays the part of Nate Foster; an excited yet misunderstood FBI agent who is dying to get his first real taste of action. When Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) gets her first look at how he deals with a would-be terrorist they bring in for questioning, she knows she has found her man for a case she is working on. Focusing on a radical white supremacy terrorist group led by radio personality Dallas Wolf, Nate is tasked with going undercover, infiltrating their group, and bringing them to justice before they do something horrible. Based upon the real events that ex-FBI undercover agent Michael German saw firsthand, “Imperium” delivers a tense setting that is carried by the film’s strong acting.

The overall message of the film packs a hard punch

This is one of those films where you’re going to have to forgive some of the story telling and a lot of the pacing. There are moments throughout where I found myself wondering if situations would really go down the way they do in this movie, but I found myself so enthralled with how everyone was acting that I would quickly forgive any mistakes in the portrayal of the story. Foster starts off as this meek, want-to-do-what’s-right agent and transforms himself, seemingly very quickly, into a believable white supremacist who is able to climb the social ranks of the group at an alarmingly quick rate. First he makes friends with the soldiers on the ground — the ‘act first, never think’ kind of guys. From there he gets introduced to Gerry Conway (Trammell); a family man who throws cookouts for the group and whose wife bakes them Nazi cupcakes. At that party he gets in with the Aryan nation and without much hesitation they begin showing him around their camp site filled with hundreds of beds, barracks, and weapons. Then, based solely on a promise to donate money to his radio station and get his message out to a larger group of people, he’s able to find himself one-on-one with the man they’re after, Dallas Wolf. I found myself rooting so much for Foster and getting caught up in the excitement of being in such a dangerous situation that I never really found myself questioning the timeline all that much, but instead just enjoying the ride.

While Radcliffe is obviously the star of this movie, writer/director Daniel Ragussis isn’t content with letting him carry the movie on his own but instead surrounds him with less familiar faces that deliver devastatingly brilliant performances. The one that sticks out the most, to me, is Sam Trammell’s portrayal of Gerry Conway. He plays the character so honest that despite his reprehensible beliefs he’s was able to almost convince me that he wasn’t that bad of a guy. That’s the point though: these people, while their beliefs are incomprehensible to me, are still human and feel and breathe and eat just like me and to play them any other way would come off as a caricature or drive the point home too much of how I’m supposed to dislike them. Instead of going the obvious route, Ragussis lulled me into actually caring about these people if only for a small amount of time and that makes the overall message of the film pack a much harder punch.

The one thing I would have changed about this movie, however, is how Nate never really finds himself in a situation he can’t get out of. There are moments that flirt with the idea of getting him to do something he may not be able to come back from, or where his cover might be blown, but he’s able to slither out of it without much trouble. With other undercover movies that have come before, most notably ‘Donnie Brasco‘, there is always that one scene where the main character has to question their morality, or where someone from their normal life recognizes them, but Nate is never really put to the test and I feel that was a misstep because it made everything feel too easy.

The novelty of Radcliffe playing an undercover white supremacist was what got me to watch this movie, but it was the writing and acting that got me to stay in my seat. While there are minor issues throughout the film, I think “Imperium” does enough to entertain to keep it from being just an average movie with an interesting gimmick.





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