As a genre, science-fiction seems to have been pushed aside by various fantastical franchises such as Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings or comic book adaptations like Spider-Man in recent years. However, Impostor, based on an original concept by Blade Runner's Philip K. Dick is typical, old-fashioned science-fiction with traditional story-lines, even if the final product is a middling mess.
Set in 2079, Impostor tells of a war between Earth and the Centauri race, who are designing more and more effective ways to gain advantage. Huge impenetrable domes protect Earth's surviving cities, and the area outside of these domes is a barren wasteland. One human, Spencer John Olham (Gary Sinise) has vowed to gain revenge after the Centauri's killed his father, and so he has spent years designing a super weapon capable of tipping the balance of the war back in Earth's favour. However, Earth's authorities, lead by Major Hathaway (Vincent D'Onofrio) are aware of a Centauri craft that has penetrated the dome, and they believe that Olham has been replaced by an identical alien version internally armed with a bomb. Olham finds this idea ridiculous, but it isn't long before he is on the run from the authorities who seek his termination.
Impostor is based on a short story segment, and the film suggests that the original premise wasn't enough to sustain a feature-length running time. Rather than concentrate on the overwhelming postmodern issues of man's own identity in an ever-changing future, Impostor is merely content to act as a mediocre action thriller of little substance. The film as directed by Gary Fleder (Don't Say A Word, Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead) feels compromised at every level, and lacks a clear, dynamic goal in terms of dramatic narrative or cohesive plot.
Impostor feels like a cheap budget TV series expanded to a feature length format, and yet after watching the film it's surprising to learn that the budget was actually forty million dollars. Filming took place between 1999 and early 2000, and the release date of early 2002 suggests that the film required extensive post-production work to patch up the film's holes. This is clearly obvious when studying the film's editing, which is choppy, badly assembled, and an obvious attempt at a post-production makeover. Even worse, many film fans have claimed that many of the special effects shots from Impostor have even been culled from other movies, which indicates how dire the film's situation must have been.
The film is certainly not all bad, and is still watchable for the most part. Gary Sinise does his best as the film's protagonist Olham, but Sinise is always better in strong supporting roles such as Apollo 13 or Forrest Gump. Vincent D'Onofrio is a capable actor, but his high-pitched voice and stern demeanour seems far too over-the-top in places, and he gives the impression that he is trying to outdo Malkovich on the sinister scale. Madeline Stowe is the film's token love interest, and her character is under-developed and Miss Stowe is underused.
At times, the film's visual style gives Impostor an interesting angle, but all too often style and originality is compromised for mechanical action and stilted performances. It's as if production hit trouble mid-way through the film's schedule, and Miramax decided to just abandon any more expense and attempt a hack-job with the rest. This version is apparently the uncut director's cut, because the studio originally intended to recoup as much of the expense as possible by opening the film to a PG-13 audience, therefore trimming all of the more adult sequences.
Impostor clearly has potential, but fails to utilise any of it, instead pandering to the low-brow action market and alienating most of its core audience. It's an expensive, laboured flop that deserves the poor reviews it has received, and ultimately the film feels like a short story unsuccessfully stretched over a ninety minute feature film. There is demand for decent science-fiction, but sadly Impostor doesn't satisfy it. If indeed Impostor was intended to just be a short film, one would have to question why the producers felt the need to triple its length and destroy any qualitative credibility it possessed.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1, the transfer for Impostor is very good, with a fine and natural depth of image and a sharp, clarity filled picture quality that is colourful and fresh. Artefacts and grain are kept to a minimum, and the transfer complements the film presentation well.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound mix is generally fine but lacks any of the dynamic audio elements that are usually accustom to most science-fiction efforts. Dialogue is crisp and clear and spatial channelling is mostly kept to the front channels other than a few well placed rear sound events, but this is still a fine if uninspired mix. A 2.0 mix is also provided.
Menu: An interesting and technological-fuelled animated menu that ties in with the themes of the film.
The Impostor Files: This is an eleven minute featurette designed to highlight the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew mixed with behind-the-scenes footage. The makers mention why they expanded the film from short to feature length, although their excuses are less than convincing.
Trailer: A decent trailer that does its best to promote the positive factors of Impostor.
Impostor is a mildly diverting science-fiction tale that ultimately fails to do credit to Philip K. Dick's original premise. It lacks polish, cohesion and quality, and the extras are very minimal, especially as the Region 1 version featured the original short version of the film as an add-on. Clearly a film to rent before buying, as one viewing will in most cases be enough.