Idealistic FBI agent Nate Foster goes undercover to take down a radical white supremacy terrorist group. The up-and-coming analyst must confront the challenge of sticking to a new identity while maintaining his real principles as he navigates the dangerous underworld of white supremacy.Written by
Burn Gorman, Morgan and Seth Numrich, Roy, appear together in AMC's Turn, Washington's Spies. See more »
When Nate is in Dallas Wolf's bathroom on his initial visit to Wolf's house, you can see the shadow of the camera on the doorway trim reflected in the mirror behind him as the camera moves in for a closer shot. See more »
You have the phone?
[they plug it in, the device lights up]
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Hints at a more interesting film than is delivered
With one of the most recognisable faces in the world, Daniel Radcliffe seems to be making a full-throttle effort not to go down the same road taken by many child actors, and has tried to cast as wide a net as possible when it comes to film roles. Whether it be a man sprouting horns in, erm, Horns (2013), a hunchbacked assistant in Victor Frankenstein (2015) or a farting corpse in this year's Swiss Army Man, his desire to shake shake off the ghost of Harry Potter is nothing but admirable. With Imperium, there's no extravagant make-up or gimmick to hide behind, or in fact any hair, as he convinces as a bookish FBI agent turned white supremacist infiltrator.
While it certainly doesn't match the intensity of Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper (1992). Edward Norton in American History X (1998) or Ryan Gosling in The Believer (2001) - movies all set within the same world - it is undoubtedly Radcliffe's finest performance. When we first meet his character, Nate Foster, he is bespectacled and brown- suited, taking a literal back-seat as the Bureau successfully entrap a suspected terrorist. We then see what he can offer, speaking fluently in Arabic and using his people skills to settle the suspect down enough to talk. With caesium-137 on the loose and Middle Easterners the target, Nate's boss Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) feels the FBI have forgotten that threats also lurk from within, and turns her focus instead to a white supremacist hate group.
Many of the Imperium's best moments are the scenes between Nate and Zamparo, and Collette makes the most of what is a relatively straight-forward role. We also get an idea as to why Nate, someone who is bullied by his colleagues, is the perfect man to go undercover and try to work his way into the inner-factions of the group. He is quiet, mild-mannered and spends most of his time outside of work on his own, but he is also highly intelligent, observant and, most importantly, victimised. While the many skin- heads Nate encounters are indeed burly and terrifying, they all share a sense of misguided victimhood, channelling their frustration and hatred towards a country they feel has betrayed them. Nate may not share their views, but he can empathise on an emotional level, which makes him a perfect fit to feel somewhat at home in such surroundings.
Director Daniel Ragussis, here making his feature debut, hints at a more interesting film than he manages to deliver. It touches on the inner psyche of these hateful people, and offers some shocking facts about America's dealings with terrorism, and just how much of it has come from white people. However, Ragussis's desire to tell a neat- and-tidy story means that Imperium never rises above routine thriller territory. A few key scenes in which Nate feels the wall closing in on him are very well done, and the script-writing input of Michael German, a former FBI undercover agent turned best-selling author, adds a feel of authenticity. I would also like to highlight the terrific performances of Chris Sullivan and Tracy Letts, the latter stealing every scene he's in as radio hate preacher Dallas Wolf. Imperium is a solidly-made, well-acted film that sadly doesn't strive to be anything more than an exciting thriller.
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