The Imposter (2012) Poster


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A truly bizarre story
rjwilliams515030 November 2012
A 13 year old boy disappears from a small town in Texas, three years later Police in Spain alert authorities in the US, against all odds it appears that child has been found....or has he?

I watched this 'movie' not knowing very little about it, and after 10 minutes or so I was puzzled, is this a mocu-mentary or based on a true story? surely it couldn't be as the story was so bizarre!!

Filmed in the same style as the TV show 'Banged Up Abroad', part interview clips with the real people, part reconstructed key moments with actors, this is a quite astonishing story and well worth a viewing.
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Cinematic, intriguing and unsettling even if the events don't give the highs the director has the potential to deliver.
Sergeant_Tibbs26 June 2013
While it's fascinating to have a documentary in such detail on both sides of a criminal act, it's most interesting aspect is watching the development of a mad man unfold in just a single shot spread over the whole film. At first, Frederic Bourdin appears charming and approachable as he explains his old thought processes with a smile. Over the film's progression, in which we're treated to Man On Wire-esque re-enactments, it's clear he actually has no remorse and his pride is unsettling, especially as this case is just one of the many. Although the film does underwhelm in the end slightly, that can't be helped for it's a documentary, the best aspect is the slick photography in both the interviews and re-enactments making it look incredibly cinematic. The Imposter is a really well constructed film that makes its unbelievable story work and keeps a consistent level of intrigue and anxiety throughout, even if in an ideal world, it should be building up to a finer payoff.

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me-47-16435823 June 2012
I saw this film at it's European premiere last night at the Edinburgh Film Festival and I was very surprised. The first 1/3 of the film is a well stylized documentary but then this story, which goes from implausible to downright absurd. If the story wasn't true, you would find yourself thinking that the director was trying to string you along and at the very end pop out and say "naw, I was just kidding". There are so many parts of it the require you to suspend belief only to remind yourself it was reality.

While there maybe no new information, the ability to portray complex situations from the perspective of the participant remind us all that truth and the human condition are relative. You are left with unanswered questions, doubts and just shaking your head. Well polished, well executed and well edited, there are few documentaries that can suck you into them and actually wonder what is next.
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A stupefying, 'wtf?' movie, which puts fictional thrillers to shame
octopusluke2 December 2012
Considered a dead-cert win at the Academy Awards next year, Bart Layton's documentary The Imposter has rapidly generated a great deal of notoriety and acclaim. The quintessential 'stranger than fiction' tale, it's sensational blend of archive footage, delicate reconstructions and heartrending talking head interviews illustrate that, not only is Layton a masterful, investigative reporter, but moreover a profoundly impressive storyteller.

Back in 1994, the blue-collar Barclay family from San Antonio, Texas, was left distraught after the disappearance of their 13-year-old son, Nicholas. Like any teenage boy, Nicholas was a cocksure kid, filled with energy, love for his family, and certainly wouldn't runaway from home for no good reason. Weeks turned into months, and eventually the case was abandoned by the police and press. Three years later, the local Texas police department receives an international call from Spain. On the receiving end is a character claiming to be Nicholas. Putting in a bogus story about how he escaped the clutches of a drug fuelled, pedophilic organization, the police think his story check out, and soon enough Nicholas' sister Carey jets over to Europe to meet her long lost brother. In front of police officials, she takes a good look and identifies him as the legitimate lost brother. Three years ago, Nicholas was a blue-eyed, spunky American teenager, now he's transformed into a dark haired, brown-eyed man with stubble and an irreplaceable French accent.

The Imposter, like it's central subject, is not the documentary you expect it to be. With many twists, contortions and moral judgements, your pretty much open-mouth and on the edge of your seat throughout the film's entirety. That's partly down to Layton's craft, particularly the Errol Morris-like interviewing technique – which sees people gaze directly into the lens of the camera and, vicariously, straight at us. But, even more astounding, is the capricious performer that names the film. Frédéric Bourdin, a then 23-year-old man of French-Algerian descent, is actively impersonating Nicholas the whole time, convincing not only the state officials, but the abandoned boy's own mother. With a shrouded history as a homeless orphan thrown into the life of deception and petty crime, he longed to fit in and have a family of his own. When that opportunity didn't surface, he decided to steal Nicholas's own.

"How could he get away with it?" I hear you cry. That's something I'll leave for you to answer when you see this documentary. Suffice to say, Bourdin is an intimidatingly convincing, intelligent and charismatic figure. To the point where we sit back and reflect whether we could have been swung by his quick wit. Even if Bourdin is the great pretender, a new revelation in the film's final act suggests that the Barclay family are perhaps keeping up appearances of their own.

It may not be my favourite documentary of the year (The Act of Killing, if you were wondering), but The Imposter is the best psychological thriller I've seen in recent memory. It transcends the documentary stratum. A dauntingly universal account of a missing child and false identity, it's stupefying moments will leave you silenced whilst the movie plays out. But, as soon as the credits roll, you'll be talking about this exceptional movie for years to come.

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A bizarre, chilling, surprising & thoroughly enthralling 99-minute eye-popping experience.
TheSquiss3 October 2012
There are far too few documentaries on general release so it's a rare pleasure to sit in a dark screening room with six other people to watch another example of bizarre real life unfold across the screen. The Imposter is one of those documentaries where you sit there with the sense of incredulity growing as every twist in the plot reveals itself. It's not as jaw-droppingly absurd as the excellent Tabloid and it isn't remotely funny, but it is a fascinating and compelling experience. I'll qualify that; the story of The Imposter is fascinating while the manner in which it is presented to us upon the screen is absolutely compelling and worthy of the plaudits it has so far received, including a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival and a gong in the same category at the Miami Film Festival. In San Antonio, Texas on 13 June 1994, thirteen-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared. Three and a half years later, when his family's only hope was to find his remains and gain closure, they received word that Nicholas was alive and had been found in Spain. His elder sister, Carey, flew out to Spain to bring Nicholas home whereupon he unfolded a tale of kidnapping and abuse. However, blonde, blue-eyed American Nicolas had somehow become darker skinned, dark haired and French and now looked out onto the world through brown eyes. Yet the family still accepted him as their own! Told partly through interviews with the players including, incredibly, the imposter himself and dramatized interpretations of events, The Imposter gently reveals the events as private investigator Charlie Parker suspects Frédérick Bourdin's true identity and uncovers his history. It bears some resemblance to Le Retour de Martin Guerre (or Sommersby if you preferred the American adaptation) but there is no sign of altruism or a purity of intent from Bourdin. Just as you think you've understood the situation, another nugget of information widens the eyes even further until 'How could the family not know?' turns to 'Why did they decide not to know?' And still more questions arrive. It's an incredible story where doubt is cast over the sanity and honesty of those at the heart of it. At one point, Nicholas' sister (the real one, not the version played by an actress) says with all sincerity, "Spain? That's, like, across the country!" It is plainly obvious we're not dealing with the brightest sparks. But being educationally challenged does not mean dishonesty is not a factor. Director Bart Layton weaves the tale beautifully, never giving away too much in one go and his use of reconstruction blends perfectly with the genuine interviews. The use of real person and actor for each 'character' so often jars in TV documentaries leaving the viewer confused as to who s/he is watching on the screen. Here, Layton has cast perfectly and the dual appearances compliment each other, blending so it is neither noticeable nor important which version we are watching. Star status is usually reserved for performers in feature films, not factual documentaries, but Bourdin is so relaxed, so matter of fact in the telling of his own version of events that he draws the viewer in and leaves us wanting to climb inside his head an know how his brain turns and how many teeth are missing from each cog. The Imposter, though unlikely to enthuse as wide an audience as last year's Project Nim or Senna, is a bizarre, chilling, surprising and thoroughly enthralling 99-minute eye-opening experience.
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Gregorgreene26 June 2012
I saw this film at the 2012 Edinburgh Film Festival. The film focuses on the story of Nicholas Barclay who disappeared from his Texas home in 1994. Three years later he's found in France and then re-united with his parents. But it's obvious he cannot be there son. He's an impostor; a 23 year old con-artist. The film explores the unravelling of this story through interviews and very well realised reconstructions of the events. Documentary recreations don't always work and can detract from the interviews but here they work very well.It makes for a strange and compelling film. A deliberation on the nature of truth and lies that had me completely gripped.
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True or False?
dharmendrasingh17 March 2013
If every detail of this didn't actually happen, it would be a fictional best-seller. Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old blonde-haired, blue-eyed Texan boy went missing in 1994. Three years later, on a rainy night in Spain, a person made a call to the police, claiming to be that boy. That person was in fact mentally afflicted con artist Frederic Bourdin, an Algerian orphan, who had a history of impersonating missing and fictional children.

What an intriguing story, I hear you say. There's no question that it is. It might have been even more intriguing if the US media hadn't presaged this documentary, and therefore limited its potential impact, by covering the story in minute detail at the time of its unearthing, only 15 years ago.

Filmmaker Bart Layton chooses the annoying reconstruction technique, more at home in TV than in cinema; and yet he had the material for a heart-pounding thriller. Frederic Bourdin is allowed too much screen time, which he uses to gloat about how he ingeniously fooled the authorities and Nicholas's family into believing the implausible reason for his radical physical transformation, memory loss and new French accent. This over-familiarity with the villain and his modus operandi helps sanitise him and makes him appear less dangerous.

'The Imposter' was not made purely for entertainment purposes. The documentary asks whether Bourdin's actions were acceptable; after all, he was an orphan whom the authorities didn't care much for. This was his way to be 'reborn' and to be loved by a family who Bourdin still maintains never truly believed he was their son, but nonetheless accepted him because he was willing to be accepted.

The twist in the tale came when Bourdin made a full confession to dogged Private Investigator, Charlie Parker (who looks so much like a film PI). Bourdin claimed that the family murdered Nicholas, and embraced him as a way of closing the case. I admit that a cold chill ran down my spine every time Nicholas's mother is interviewed. The black t-shirt she wears with a blank expression, denying her guilt with verbose but carefully delivered sentences, does cause the question to hang.

With all their power and their reputation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation fell for a trickster. It beggars belief. FBI agent Nancy Fisher talks at some length to defend her actions. Despite reservations about his true identity, Frederic's correct identification of some family photos (coincidentally showed to him by Nicholas's sister a few days prior) was apparently enough for them to send him to the States. And yet we're reminded of how rare it is for missing people to reappear (they're usually assumed dead).

The family may have had their own reasons to be taken in by Bourdin, but the authorities - they couldn't have truly believed Bourdin was Nicholas, could they? Is it not just conceivable that this 'reunion' was allowed to happen because it allowed America to once again be the world's greatest country? Who knows? What we do know is that Nicholas Barclay is still missing, and Bourdin now lives happily in France with a wife and three kids.
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Who is the Imposter?
hlee-7488716 April 2021
A private investigator thought he was a foreign terrorist. The FBI conducted a forensic interview and determined not only that he wasn't Nicholas Barclay, he didn't even grow up in an English speaking environment. They saw this as a potential dangerous situation. But yet, even after all the expert witnesses warning the family, they invited him in with open arms. They became hostile against the FBI investigation and refused to provide DNA. It's as if the trauma of the missing Nicholas Barclay was so much, they couldn't compute the red flags being waved. All they saw was Nicholas Barclay. Or does this family have a darker history to hide?

"I no longer saw them as a grieving victimized family. I saw them as a questionable family. There'll be reason to accept a stranger into their lives unless there was something to hide. Something was being hidden and I didn't know what that was," FBI case worker.

"They knew I wasn't Nicholas. Whatever I was telling them, they didn't believe a word of it. But they were getting good at not showing it," Frederick Bourdin aka the imposter.

What began as a lie by the imposter had turned into a conspiracy through willful corroboration. But conspiracy for what?

What is revealed through investigations is a family torn by a toxic relationship between Nicholas and his older brother. Something happened in that house law enforcement doesn't know about. Something that Nicholas's brother took with him to the grave in a suicide as the once missing persons was being viewed as a possible homicide. Or is this the sick work of a lifetime con and a pathological liar to turn the spotlight to a torn grieving family?

Twists after twists. Lies after Lies. Evidence, or lack thereof, spins this true story in a circle.
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The Imposter
WubsTheFadger4 January 2018
Short and Simple Review by WubsTheFadger

Word of Warning: I would recommend going into this film completely blind. Watching this film with no information about it is the best way to see it.

The story is extremely gripping. This documentary/mystery film is full of twists, real life sadness, and a powerful story. It leaves you with many unanswered questions, but does so in a way that leaves you tingling in contemplation. The plot can be disturbing to some and at times it can be quite scary.

The acting and storytelling is fluent. Most of the acting is done by people who had first hand accounts of the real life story. Some of the acting is reenacted which brings some depth and suspense to the story. The twist is very unexpected and it is deal with care.

The tone throughout the film is very dark. There are moments that send chills down your spine.

The pacing is okay but there are parts in the film that seemed out of place. In the beginning, I found myself getting lost in all the things that were going on.

Pros: Great story, amazing twist, unanswered questions, powerful storytelling, consistent tone, and strong first hand accounts in regard to the story

Cons: Okay pacing and some moments that were a bit confusing

Overall Rating: 8.2

P.S. If you enjoyed this film, you might also enjoy Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008). It is a documentary film that has the same mix of drama and crime.
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absolutely amazing
blanche-26 February 2014
How to describe this documentary -- your jaw will drop.

"The Imposter" was done in 2012. A 13-year-old boy, Nicholas, disappeared from his family home in San Antonio, Texas in 1994 and turned up three years later in Spain. The person claiming he was Nicholas was an imposter -- and an obvious one. In fact, his eye color was different from Nicholas. The family, however, welcomed him with open arms and seemed to believe him.

"Nicholas" -- who spoke English with an accent -- appeared on a TV news show and while filming it, the investigator who had been sent to find him for the interview became suspicious and was convinced that he was not Nicholas.

This opened up a new set of questions: Why had this family accepted such an obvious imposter as Nicholas? And if he wasn't Nicholas, who was he? This is a knock your socks off documentary, absolutely fascinating and very well done. See what you think.
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Old Nick
Lejink1 June 2020
Stranger than fiction true-life documentary of the opportunistic and heartless identity-theft by a mature 23 year old French nationality homeless man who, after being picked up on the street in Limares, Spain assumed the identity of a young boy who had disappeared three years ago aged 13 from his home in Texas.

The perpetrator, one Frederic Bourdin, randomly picked his new identity from a file of international missing persons whilst in police custody, although you would think he could have done a better job of it as he was at the time six years older than the boy Nicholas Barclay he chose to impersonate, had a different hair colour and spoke with a pronounced accent, never mind being separated by the Atlantic Ocean, but preying on a family elated at the prospect of the miraculous reappearance of their long lost son, he ran the whole nine yards in the role before finally a doctor's testimony put a stop to the charade and eventually saw Bourdin go to jail, leaving behind a family now heartbroken a second time and a host of incredulous officials duped by his brazen callowness.

Like a dark version of the Emperor's New Clothes, this is a story of a desperate family seeing what wasn't there and believing the impossible through the blinding distortion of their individual and collective grief. It all really starts with the boy's sister who flies to Spain and immediately falls for her long-lost brother's incredible return from the dead, swallowing whole his explanations for his changes of appearance, voice and character. Bourdin, now spying a life of ease in America as the pampered born-again son, had decided to follow through with the ruse, dying his hair blond, adding a few tattoos and concocting a fantastical story of being kidnapped and transported abroad to a life as a sex-slave with the so-called gang even managing to conveniently change his eye-colour in the process.

There's no question of the film-maker here attempting some is-he-or-isn't-he mystery, as the film's title makes clear, confirmed by Bourdin's first smirking, unrepentant appearance. The key events in the fraud are recreated dramatically and interspersed with interviews of all the major players in this unbelievable story set to a deliberately light, capering musical soundtrack which itself from the first strongly hints at the elusiveness and illusion at the heart of this incredible story.

In the end Bourdin got jailed for six years, the missing boy's hapless family saw their hopes of his resurrection brutally dashed and of course, his abduction and likely murder returned to the files of the unexplained and unsolved.

I came away from the film with a sense of how the power of loss, especially that of a child, can so blind a family which had given up hope and a sense of rage at the heartless selfishness of a still apparently unapologetic sick individual who even today diverts blame back to the trusting family who took him in.

Pity help the wife and three children the film tells us in an epilogue he lives with today.
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To restart a life is easy, but to become a someone else?
Reno-Rangan25 August 2014
This was a stunning documentary movie about the 1997 incident. Tells the story of a Texas boy who returned home after the 3 years of disappearance. Created a lot thrilling excitation that equals to any masterpiece crime-thriller movie. Particularly to say it is what Hitchcock would have chosen to do if he was alive today. Sadly, it was a documentary movie, that does not really stop anyone from a watch. It is one the documentary you should watch if you are a Hitchcock fan, especially if you are interested in the crime-thrillers that deals about identity crises. As it is a true story, it was unbelievable.

A 16 year-old Nicolas Barclay from Texas was missing for 3 years. All the sudden one day he appears with the changed personality. That brings joy in his family who was praying for his return. But Nicolas tells the strange story about his disappearance that convince his family, but authorities suspect that something is not right. What is true and what is not is the remaining narration that reveals as it happened.

''I saw the opportunity.''

This movie is what reminds me the Indian movie 'Naan'. Same kind of narration that does not keep the secret from the viewers, but each other from the movie characters. It was about claiming the fake identity, that was not done perfectly because of the faultless display, but failed to recognize the truth, especially in the modern world with all the facilities are available to detect such flaws. Like saying, all is well when everybody is happy. There are lots of similar incidents happening, but everything won't come into the lights. I am glad this story brought into the silver screen.

It was awesome, I thoroughly stuck with it till the end. Yes, the end leaves behind many doubts about the whole structure of the case that could possibly take us to the day since Nicolas was missing. But in another angle it is a kind of offense to believe where the story leaves everything and finger points the other way. Whatever the truth is, it leaves us on a thin border of the two possibilities and we have to take what way we think could possibly would have happened. In the meantime the mystery about Nicolas keeps unanswered. I hope this puzzle will be solved one day in the near future.
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very strange but good
kairingler2 March 2014
if this wasn't a true story , frankly I wouldn't have believed it myself,, the story is so strange and complicated, but yet straightforward.. a young boy goes missing,, and years go by , then all of a sudden a boy presumed dead is alive and well,, well let's just wait a minute here I smell a scam,, and sure enough there 's on in the works,, a French boy on the run from the law from practically everywhere in the world.. claims he is the missing boy that the family is looking for,, but a police detective notices that the eyes don't match,, lot's of stuff in the movie just don't add up,, like the ineptitude of the national center for missing children,, like wouldn't they run dna and blood tests.. just saying,, but overall very interesting movie,, makes you wonder what really happened to the family's little boy,,, if they actually killed him or not,, this is a must see movie,, I gave it a 10
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This possibly can't be a true story! ... Can it?
Coventry18 December 2013
Good, respectfully made documentaries are very difficult to rate, and even more difficult to review! This is what I experience once again after watching Bart Leyton's uniquely jaw-dropping "The Imposter". It would have been so much easier if this were a fictional story… Then we would all be able to write that it's a bunch of implausible and far-fetched nonsense that sprung from the mind of an overly imaginative scriptwriter! But this is a true story and – believe me – incredibly hard to fathom! Leyton reconstructs, chronologically and patiently, the story of an unscrupulous French/Algerian fraud who incomprehensibly manages to impersonate a vanished 16-year-old Texan; misleading the boy's devastated family members as well as the authorities and the media. When apprehended in Spain, Frédéric Bourdin sees the opportunity to assume the identity of Nicholas Barclay, who disappeared without a trace in his hometown of San Antonio 3 years and 4 months ago. There's no way back when Nicholas' sister comes to bring him back to Texas, but even though he looks, sounds and acts completely different than Nicholas ever did, the family embraces Bourdin without questioning his grotesque made up testimonies. Only gradually, some people become skeptical and begin to dig a deeper in Bourdin's persona, like a social worker and a private detective. The most praiseworthy aspect about "The Imposter", and I believe this is entirely Bart Leyton's very own accomplishment, is that this documentary isn't manipulative or judgmental at all. The film doesn't condemn the family members for their blindness, naivety or how easily they were brainwashed. Quite important, because this made me – personally - feel less like a voyeur in observing all the pain these people had to endure. Bourdin himself is also even granted to elaborate on his miserable childhood and his urge to compensate through becoming a phony. Leyton's narrative style is captivating and honest, and you hardly even notice the whole thing gradually turning from documentary into a tense thriller/film-noir. "The Imposter" is something you just have to discover yourself, I can only repeat that it's an incredible story that you don't even fully when you are gazing at it.
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Great story that is structured and delivered very well
bob the moo21 July 2013
I watched a documentary the other day where the access was so good and the story so engaging that I had to check the thing was not a scripted drama; with The Imposter I had a similar feeling and had only just finished it when I took to the internet to verify that the whole story was not made up. I confirmed that this was not the case and in fairness if you tried to write this story as fiction, nobody would buy it as too much of it would be laughed out of the room as absurd or so unlikely as to be impossible. I shan't say too much but essentially this is the story of a Frenchman in his early 20's who is in Spain and claims to be a boy who went missing a few years earlier as a 13 or 14 year old in San Antonio, Texas. Despite being older, having a French accent, not having the same color eyes or hair, his claim sees the missing boy's sister coming across to Europe, greeting him with open arms and returning him to his home in the US. And it should tell you a lot that this is where the story really starts.

As a story it is hard to believe and on this level it is engaging because it is so fantastical that you cannot stop following it but it still needs to be delivered well – just because you have a good story doesn't make you a good story-teller. In this case though the film does a great job from start to finish. Interviews, reconstructions and archive footage are all used very well to slowly build the story and follow it to the conclusion. It is filmed in a very cinematic way, with effects of thrillers and a sinister air to it that I thought might be a bit forced but actually worked very well indeed – the cinematography of the reconstructions and the clever editing of the interviews into the film really worked to the film's benefit. The contributors are mostly engaging and quite open – in particular "The Imposter" himself is a real presence in the film, we may not really understand him (or any of them really) but his contributions really helps us get inside the story.

That the Imposter is a great story is one thing, but this film tells it very well indeed. It has weaknesses when it comes to understanding the characters but the thriller-approach works and drives the story forward in a manner that is satisfying and engaging. Excellent documentary.
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It offers a dose of enchantment from incredible and improbable facts, coupled with a dubious criminal investigation.
luis-boaventura224 January 2016
To portray historical facts in cinema opens, usually, a delicate tension between the limits of dramatic effect and reliability of past events.

Evidently, as the Luis Borges map drew attention, a representation is incapable of disclose the truth nature of a real object. However, a film, per si, do not should be purely objective, but rather pay attention to subjectively dramatic dimension.

The issue of balance, therefore, it is stated by the very nature of the movie art. Lapidary carefully the limits of the intelligible and dramatic becomes, therefore, the very craftsmanship of the director. The question becomes more spicy as it brings into play a major limiter of the fictional liberty, that is, the need to narrate the reality without the direct filter of dramaturgy.

Within this context, THE IMPOSTER has the exceptional merit of building a charged voltage narrative, which takes a surprisingly suggestive dramatic reversal, concluding with open elements a documentary narrative. More important, everything is just right, without sacrificing the dramatic element. It is to say, extraordinary events combined with a careful and progressive narrative results in a sweeping documentary.

As for the actual content of the film, it is, however, the story of a succession of misunderstandings carved by a talented swindler of only 23 years. There is no mention of a great moral or social issue.

The incredible story of a master forger do not initiates a deeper debate about immigration policies, or social inequality, the problems of investigative policy of various institutions, etc.

It solely – and with indisputable merit – offers a dose of enchantment from incredible and improbable facts, coupled with a dubious criminal investigation.
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Pointless Exploitation of a Missing Child
LDLucas30 May 2012
If you plan to see this documentary, you likely already know the full story. I hope that the director at least set out to shed light on this case and answer questions as to how it could happen. Sadly, the movie falls short in these two key areas. Instead we are treated to a film where the director mocks the victim's families, promotes the perpetrator and ultimately trivializes the disappearance of a 13 year old boy. Since the director has nothing to add, all we are left with are tasteless attempts at humor and an ill-fitting Wes Anderson soundtrack. I understand the need to recoup costs when making a documentary, but sometimes you just hit a dead end and it should be treated as such.
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Based on reviews, I thought this would be intriguing. I was wrong.
jonah-white4 July 2016
All I can say is, "wow." Some reviewers described the tale as "fascinating." The only thing fascinating about it is how gullible the people involved are.

I mean the story is totally outrageous: A blond, blue-eyed American teenager from Texas goes missing. Three years later, the child's family receives a call that he's been discovered in Spain. Except when they're "reunited" with their child, he's suddenly in his early-20s, with dark hair and dark eyes, has no recollection of his past, and speaks with a thick French accent. But this apparently doesn't raise their suspicions.

Basically, I spent the entire time wondering how people could be so dense. I kept watching, thinking that there must be some explanation or crazy plot twist. But sadly there wasn't. I also cringe at the thought of this being aired to international audiences and confirming stereotypes about Americans' lack of sophistication and naivete.

This might make a viable 20-minute story for Dateline or Inside Edition, but it really doesn't merit 90 minutes. The whole story is just too . . . stupid?
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First bland, then unsupportable
dfranzen7021 July 2013
In 1994, a 13-year-old boy disappears from Texas; three years later, he apparently shows up in Spain, disoriented and uncommunicative. The boy's family quickly retrieves him, but it's soon obvious that something is awry. Is it possible this is not their little boy after all? The Imposter's title gives you a strong indication to the answer to that question, but there's much more to the story.

This is a documentary, so let us begin with some cold facts. The story is propelled by interviews given by the real-life people at the center of the drama. Right away, we are introduced to one Frederic Bourdin, a 23-year-old Frenchman. His mission: find and steal the identity of a teenager. It turns out to be a little harder than one might imagine, particularly when the boy chosen by Bourdin turns out to be a cause celebre, and thus Bourdin is not able to simply escape the clutches of the Spanish police but instead must continue his ruse as he's taken to the United States.

Along the way, he asks himself why the boy's family is so eager to accept him as young Nicholas. Bourdin has beard stubble and dark hair, whereas teenage Nicholas was blonde and a bit too young to shave. But accept them they do. Is this simply a case where the family just wanted so desperately to believe that their boy was back that they overlooked obvious discrepancies? Or did they have something else to hide?

In addition to Bourdin himself, interviews with his older sister, his mother, his brother in law, and his brother - along with law-enforcement officials both local and national (including Interpol) - are interspersed throughout the movie. It is only from these subjective interviews that the audience can make any assumptions or deductions, as director Bart Layton doesn't push the plot in any particular direction. Well, not at first. For a good part of the movie, we are led to conclude two things: that Bourdin is certainly not Nicholas and that Nicholas' family is surely aware of this.

And then, from almost nowhere, an allegation arises that cannot be revealed here. Does it seem plausible? Yes. Is it supported in the movie as a valid theory? Not entirely. It is at this point where the director introduces the allegations behind which he also throws his own weight, a bit of a departure from the plot to that point. Layton seems to believe this allegation has at least a grain of truth - he is not the only one in the movie to think so, although there appears to be no direct evidence to support it.

And that's a shame. Up until then, the movie seems almost amiable: the lovable rogue sneaking into the U.S. by pretending to be someone much younger, fooling officials but not the family, which doesn't care anyway. After the tone shifts (abruptly), the movie itself changes - now it's much more of a mystery, and unfortunately it's one without a satisfying resolution.

If this were a work of fiction, the movie could have been effective if it was able to delve into the minds and actions of the Gibson family. Because the movie is nonfiction, throwing in plot devices that may or may not be factual would have been unethical and embarrassing. But it would have been far more entertaining than The Imposter, which promises a lot but cannot deliver on the tone set by its creepy, unsettling premise.
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Creepy, thought provoking documentary - I would love to see this as a movie
juneebuggy25 November 2014
This started out a little dry and then got progressively creepier. Filmed as a documentary with interviews from family members and "the imposter" himself; a missing teen from Texas is found alive in Spain and returns home after nearly 4 years.

However several people question his real identity and then things get really freaky. Initially his family is overjoyed, the boy bears many of the same distinguishing marks he always had, but why does he now have a strange accent and look so different? And why doesn't the family seem to notice? And then an investigator starts asking questions.

The ending of this and the questions it provokes were a big Wow. This story needs to made into a movie because you just can't make this kinda stuff up. 11.13
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Am I a documentary? Nope, YOU are a documentary. I am a MOVIE!!!
MarcoLara3 October 2014
This documentary is so full packed with mystery, intrigue, action,...that I can hardly say that is a documentary at all but a full-blown thriller which happens to be told as a documentary and happens to have really happened.

Technically I'd mark is as almost flawless. The intricacies of the combination of the sound effects with the picture are amazing. The way actors and storytellers are mixed is incredible. I can only attest to the love and patience put to this film. Truly incredible.

And of course the story is worth telling. An "apparently" French guy who claims to be a missing Texan with a family looking for him for many years. You will know the truth from the get-go. You will know what's going on, but then again you will not have a clue about what's going on because what's going on is far more deep and sinister than what you could imagine. The plot is twisted to a point that you, knowing what's going on, will soon realize that whether the kid is the missing son or not its not so important compared to what is really going on.

Storytelling-wise, the director does a great job in letting you in little by little, starting by making you comfortable in thinking that you know what is going on, and then gently but steadily throwing you out of balance.

If I have to make a negative remark I would just remove 10% of the music, but that's just a matter of personal taste.

Keyphrase: "Good luck".
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Crazy as Tiger King.
Story of a psychopath and a really messed up Texan family.
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Interesting drama styled documentary
saraccan8 July 2019
It sometimes feels like one of those tv shows where they show these bizarre mystery cases but the rarity of this story was well deserved to be a feature documentary. It's very nicely edited and has a good pacing throughout the whole thing.

A 13 year old kid disappears in Texas. But he reappears in Spain 3 years later. There are many questions need answering.
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Well, This was surprising :
aminedeflaoui15 May 2019
Today, I'm watching my second documentary . And a...., What a piece of work, absolutely fabulous. A Brilliantly directed documentary which played out more like a thriller. and such a brilliant smart human being with his outstanding idea or act of pretending to be another person for the purpose of entertainment or fraud.
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Now THIS is a story!
nohemig_karla2 May 2019
I'm still baffled by the story so I'm struggling to write a coherent review, but here's what I can say about it for now: *absolutely NO spoilers ahead, so you can read with confidence ;)* -This, in my opinion, is a masterfully crafted documentary. It's not pretentious nor cheesy, and has just the right amount of sensationalism to lure you in. -This is an incredibly compelling, truly astounding story told by one of the most interesting characters in modern history. -Re-enactments in documentaries rarely work but in this case they just make the story all the more vivid. The use of real footage also adds to the excitement of the story. -For all mystery/thriller/documentary fans out there, if you haven't seen it yet, please do!! You won't regret it. It is still relevant and I am very surprised it hasn't received any further attention by the media in general.
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