" Like Starship Troopers, the poignant layers of futuristic McCarthyism and rampant suspicion are overshadowed by action-film pretensions, and so what could have been an insightful film instead seems like a jumped-up B-movie. "
Title: Impostor: Director's Cut by Buena Vista Home Video
Format: DVD Sci-Fi/Thriller
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: "An exciting, action-packed sci-fi story from the author of Total Recall and Blade Runner," Impostor stars Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe in a futuristic suspense tale. Billed as a "surprise ending" film, it promises intensity, drama, and action. Does it deliver? Listen up, you damn dirty apes, because Genghis Kong is gonna tell you all about it.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Acting: Well, I will say this much--Philip K. Dick knows sci-fi. As the author of classic genre stories such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which later went on to become Blade Runner, one of the all-time sci-fi greats) and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (the original Total Recall short story), the man knows his way around future tales. The story behind Impostor shows his trademark craft. The world has been at war with a hostile, ruthless alien race from Alpha Centauri for well over a decade, and citizens have been forced to live inside domed cities to protect against constant enemy bombardment. Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) is a scientist developing a super weapon that may turn the tide of the conflict in favor of Earth, and he is driven both by his protective love of his wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe) and his hatred of the Centauri, who were responsible for the death of his father. Spence, however, is arrested by a secret government agency (in a unit led by Vincent D'Onofrio) that believes that he has been replaced by a cloned alien suicide bomber with the intention of killing the leader of Earth's government. When he escapes (of course he escapes!), he enlists the help of a downtrodden Outsider (Mekhi Phifer) to try and clear his name and get back to his wife. The story is good, the backdrop is interesting (if a little clichéd in this day and age, because the story is fifty years old), but the problem with taking a short story and making a feature film from it is that we are left with a 102-minute chase scene. The movie drifts away from it's sci-fi roots and becomes a futuristic knock-off of The Fugitive through most of its run time, and the surprise ending isn't much of a surprise in the end. The acting is good but not great, with Sinise giving a very strong but slightly unconvincing performance as the runaway scientist, D'Onofrio playing a cold, cutthroat villain in an extremely two-dimensional way, and Stowe playing the loving but frightened wife in a very convincing yet brief role which doesn't capitalize at all on her acting talent. Phifer plays a surprisingly interesting character whose back-story you never hear and whose motivations are alluded to but never strongly addressed (though he does take part in a fairly cool fight scene). In stretching out the story to fill an entire movie, many areas are either harped on too heavily or stretched too thin, and too much attention is focused on the chase plot when more emphasis should have been placed on the actual theme of the film. Like Starship Troopers, the poignant layers of futuristic McCarthyism and rampant suspicion are overshadowed by action-film pretensions, and so what could have been an insightful film instead seems like a jumped-up B-movie. 2.5 out of 5.
Visuals and Directing: Impostor is in line with the Aliens/Starship Troopers/Total Recall stream of sci-fi movies in that technology is blocky, rough, and comes in varying shades of brown and gray. A lot of the story cuts depicting war with the Centauri could have been plucked straight from those three films, and while they're not bad to look at, they're hardly impressive or revolutionary. The camera shots are clean, the effects are decent (but not stellar), but the technology and effects aren't very impressive. The movie is rather forgettable in the visuals department. 2.5 out of 5.
DVD Extras: There are a few interesting features on the Impostor DVD, including the original short film for the movie. This is a great addition in case you feel like watching a filmed version of the short story that doesn't drag on and on like the actual feature film tends to. There is also a featurette called the Impostor Files which interviews the cast about the film, and is worth watching only if you really, really liked the movie. Still, the effort is laudable. There are Spanish subtitles, too, but no deleted scenes--I guess when you're struggling just to fill that hour and a half with footage, you don't have time for a cutting room floor. 3.5 out of 5.
Value vs. Price: As it is an interesting film with some decent features and a good cast, Impostor is at least worth seeing. However, it definitely isn't worth buying at the list price of $19.99. While $14.99 on Amazon isn't too bad, it's not really one of those DVDs you flat out have to own, and so it's more of an impulse buy on the sale rack. 2 out of 5.
|While not a bad film, Impostor isn't exactly special. Everything done in this movie has been done in another movie (sci-fi or otherwise), and Impostor doesn't really strive to do it better. If you're in the mood for an excellent sci-fi movie that will leave you glued to your seats and feeling vindicated for your six-shelf collection of Shadowrun sourcebooks…this is not your film. But if you're looking to kill an hour and a half, and you want to know whether Gary Sinise is really a cyborg suicide bomber, by all means, give it a try.|
The Good: Decent premise, fairly good acting
The Bad: Dull visuals, drawn-out plot, not particularly revolutionary.
The Overall Ugly: Second-string sci-fi film you'll probably only watch once.
What it's Worth: Rental