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Impostor (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 7, 2020



Starring Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mekhi Phifer, Tony Shalhoub, Elizabeth Pena, Lindsay Crouse, Shane Brolly, Tim Guinee, Gary Dourdan, Jason Beck, Judy Jean Burns, Rosalind Chao, Clarence Williams III and Ivana Milacevic.

Screenplay by Scott Rosenberg.

Directed by Gary Fleder.

Distributed by Dimension Films. 102 minutes. Rated R.

To be completely honest, I never had any intention to see Impostor. It barely even registered with me, the way the studio skulked it into theaters after the New Year with little fanfare. I knew it had a good cast with Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump), Madeleine Stowe (Short Cuts) and Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent). I vaguely thought it was some kind of sci-fi flick. Otherwise I was clueless.

But there I was in the multiplex, finding out that Beauty & the Beast in IMAX was sold out for the next four showings and Impostor was the only other movie starting in the next hour. So, it had the makings of being either a good surprise or a horrible mistake.

Watching during the credits, I realized that the cast was even deeper than I’d originally imagined, with the likes of Tony Shalhoub (Big Night), Elizabeth Pena (Lone Star), Lindsay Crouse (House of Games) and Mekhi Phifer (Clockers) on board, too. No marquee names, but lots of impressive b-listers.

I admit I was a little disappointed to see it was based on a fifty-year-old short story by Philip K. Dick, a writer I tried to get into during my teen sci-fi geek days but never quite warmed up to. Even the films that have been based on Dick’s work… like Blade Runner and Total Recall… have been notoriously uneven.

However, I decided to set aside my preconceptions, positive and negative, and enjoy the film (or not) on its own merits.

It started out well, with impressive special effects and a concise introduction of where the world is at in this film. It is 2078 and the Earth is at war with Alpha Centauri and has built dome force fields over the cities that haven’t been destroyed.

Spencer Olham (Sinise) is a brilliant weapons scientist with a lovely wife (Stowe) who is also a dedicated doctor. Right as Olham has finished his greatest accomplishment, he is restrained by a military man (D’Onofrio) who is convinced that he has been murdered and replaced by a Centauri robot that is almost impossible to differentiate from a human… it has flesh, blood, feelings, fears, and no knowledge that it is a time bomb.

This leads to an interesting scene loosely recalling Kafka (or at the very least Hitchcock’s wrong man scenarios.) Olham escapes from his hunters and sets out to prove the government wrong.

And that’s where the movie kind of falls apart… Impostor becomes a series of clichés borrowed from better wasteland films, including Escape From New York, The Road Warrior, Judgment Night, even The Lord of the Rings.

They also seem to have run out of money for the sets and the effects which become rather grimy and cheesy. And the story does too.

By the time you get to the surprise ending, it is actually rather unexpected, but by then it’s a little too late. Mostly, though, Impostor is totally forgettable. I’ll be shocked if I ever give it a thought after I finish this review. Actually, I’m surprised Impostor was released in theaters at all. It’s a perfectly serviceable little thriller, but it’s got made-for-video written all over it.  (1/02)

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved. Posted January 4, 2002.

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