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Gary Fleder
Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Tony Shalhoub
Philip K. Dick, Scott Rosenberg

In the Future, not everyone is who they seem to be.

Box Office:
Budget $40 million.
Opening weekend $3.022 million on 1870 screens.
Domestic gross $6.114 million.
Rated R for violence and some language.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 7/9/2002

• Original short film
The Impostor Files featurette


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Impostor (2002)

Reviewed by Blake Kenny

Impostor was one of those Sci-Fi movies that seemed to disappear from movie theatres as quickly as it had arrived. I remember seeing the trailers on TV before its release, and even though I was somewhat intrigued by them, primarily because Iím a huge Sci-Fi fan, I never really felt compelled enough to slap down my 10 hard earned dollars to go see it. Sure the story was from Philip K. Dick - the creator of 2 of my favourite Sci-Fi movies - Blade Runner and Total Recall - but somehow, even armed with this knowledge, I just wasnít interested enough by what the trailers were showing me. Before I knew it the film vanished from movies theatres and my memory altogether - I never gave it another thought.

Needless to say, several months rolled by when I walked into my favourite DVD outfit to check out the new releases for the week. Lo and behold - there lay the new Directorís Cut release of Impostor. (How this version differs from the theatrical version I canít say, but chances are it has something to do with the few scenes of graphics violence.) At first I starred blankly at the cover, hoping the faces of Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe and Vincent DíOnofrio might actually jog my memory as to what this movie was all about. It wasnít until after I flipped it over, read the movie description and checked out the pictures on the back of the keep case that I finally rememberedÖ

ďOoooh, I remember this! This is that one with that guy whoÖĒ (No, I didnít say this aloud in the store.)

After I realized what I was holding I promptly put the movie back down on the shelf. I told myself there was no way I was going to pay that kind of money to own a DVD, when I wasnít willing to spend half its price to see in theatres. Impostor didnít go home with me that day. Instead I chose a few more notable and high profile titles, but I reserved myself to the fact that I was going to have to at least rent it sometime.

As it turns out I ended up with the film anyway. So the question remains. Is Impostor a noteworthy and underrated Sci-Fi gems in disguise? Or is it just another mediocre affair without a single shred of intrigue or excitement? Well read on and Iíll tell you not only what I thought of the film, but also what I thought about the DVD.

Our story takes place in the year 2079. As with many Sci-Fi movies out there, the future looks pretty bleak. The human race is a war with an alien species from the planet Alpha Centauri 1. After decades of relentless attack from the Centuari, much of the earthís population has taken refuge under electro magnetic domes. The domes are used to protect and shield us from the Centauriís frequent air raids. However, only the largest and most advanced areas of the globe are safe under these supposedly impenetrable domes. Many of our people live like refugees in the desolate and war ravaged areas outside of the domes - areas know simply as The Dead Zones.

As the story opens Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) and his wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe) are just coming to the conclusion of a romantic weekend getaway in Sutton Woods. Upon returning to their prestigious business lives we learn the Spencer Olham is the project director at a facility that is involved in special weapons research - obviously aimed at coming up with more effective techniques to deal with the alien invaders. Shortly after arriving at the facility; Olham meets up with Major D.H. Hathaway (Vincent DíOnofrio). After introducing himself and informing Olham that he is part of the E.S.Aís(Earth Security Agency) enemy infiltration division, Hathaway viciously neutralizes Olham and taking him into custody.

Immediately after we find Olham strapped down in a cold iron chair for strict interrogation. Its here that the story really gets moving and we discover that Hathaway suspects that the real Spencer Olham has been killed and replaced by this sophisticated alien impostor seated before him. After a rather convincing argument on Hathawayís part, we learn that the impostor has an extremely powerful bomb hidden within it chest and is unknowingly an alien tool of mass destruction. Its mission is quite simply to assassinate a key member within earthís government - thus effectively helping the collapse of earthís defences from within.

Naturally Olham finds the accusations to be completely ludicrous. Heís certain of his own humanity and tries desperately to convince Hathaway that the E.S.A has made a terrible mistake. However, when it becomes painfully clear that Hathaway and his cohorts plans to forcibly remove the bomb from his chest with a rather grizzly device, he finds he has no choice but to attempt an escape, and naturally - he proceeds to do just that.

Its here that the chase begins and the movieís sometimes clever, but often predictable events take place. Without putting to fine a point on it, this is essentially a futuristic telling of the Fugitive. For the remainder of the film Olham runs and Hathaway tracks him. Olham, all the while struggling to find a way to prove that heís innocent and not an alien plot device. ĒI didnít kill my wife!Ē Ooops sorry, wrong movie. Of course this all goes on for a while and inevitably leads to what is supposed to be a shocking climax. Ultimately the ending fails to really surprise anyone. In its defence I will say that it had a nice little secondary twist; but unfortunately it left me feeling a little hollow and ambivalent towards the whole thing. Now despite how my review of the film may sound up to this point, I canít say that I disliked it, I just found that it wasnít wholly original.

The acting was decent throughout, thanks to a talented cast of veterans - thankfully this little bit of star power made all the movieís inadequacies much more bearable. By far I found the character of Hathaway, played by Vincent DíOnofrio to easily be the most interesting. The dedicated, sarcastic and sometimes humorous qualities he brought to his character almost made me wish they would show a little less Gary Sinise and a little more of him. I wonít deny that Gary Sinise is a sensational actor, but from a personal standpoint I often find myself having a complete lack of interest in any of the characters he has portrayed - with the exception of Forrest Gumpís - Lieutenant Dan.

On a side note, there was something I found a little disturbing about this movie visuals pretty much from the word - ďGo!Ē. The fact that Impostor was originally shot as a short film and later made into a feature would probably explain much of what I saw, but somehow this was little consolation. While the movie contained a great deal of original CG effects courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic, there was also a huge assortment of scenes that were obviously raped and pillaged from other, more successful Sci-Fi flicks. Clips from Armageddon, Gattaca and Starship Troopers littered this film. While some viewers might not notice this, anyone who has seen these other movies more than once will undoubtedly recognize some of these scenes. In fact, there were times that I felt like I was watching some sort of strange, unknown sequel to Starship Troopers. A Sequel that contained neither a perfectly cast group of beautiful people or the Bugs from Klendathu. The reason I say this is because Hathaway soldiers wore the exact same helmets and body armour worn by the Mobile Infantry in Troopers. Aside from having different guns, these soldiers looked pretty much identical. Check it out for yourself, itís truly a bizarre sight to see.

The DVD Grades: Picture B- / Audio B+ / Bonus C+

Being that this film wasnít released in theatres all the long ago, I expected nothing less than a flawless picture - and for the most part thatís what we get. The film comes in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in a single sided DVD. It has also been enhanced for those of us who are lucky enough to own 16x9 televisions. (Iím not one of themÖyet.)

Aside from some rare and extremely minor grain here and there, plus the occasional speckle, the picture is nearly perfect. A few of the wider shots in the film were a little soft, but a majority of the film was nice and crisp. The black levels were also right on the money. Shadows were consistently solid and dark, but at no time did you have to struggle to see any of the details within a scene. The colours were equally well defined and accurately represented. Skin tones looked very natural and over saturated colours were never an issue.

As expected, Impostor is presented with an exceptional Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and includes both English and Spanish subtitles.

The film isnít loaded with booming explosions, but it does feature a few scenes involving gunfire, which were absolutely fabulous. Gunshots were very loud, distinct and powerful - and the effect of bullets deflecting and zipping around your living room was very impressive and convincing.

During the scene in which Spencer Olham is drugged and under interrogation by the E.S.A. - hallucinogenic and hypnotic effects travel around the sound field, reinforcing the fact that Olham isnít in the best state of mind at that particular moment. In addition, chit chat between the principal actors in the underground tunnels of The Dead Zone echoed and reverberated nicely. Creating a nice ambiance and Closter phobic feel.

All in all, thereís hardly a scene in the entire film that doesnít make use of all 5 speakers. The rear surrounds in particular are well used and undergo a great workout. Thereís really nothing to complain about in the sound department - and the only thing that keeps me from giving the audio a perfect grade is the fact that the film itself never really pushes sound to the limits. Perhaps this is because the movie itself is fairly subdued and never really requires anything better from it. Overall, I found it to be a great soundtrack.

Impostor includes a few nice little extras, but compared to most other DVDís on the market these days itís a little under whelming. First up we have the Theatrical Trailer. Not a whole lot to say about this since you just watched the movie and already know the story.

Second up we have the Original Short Film. In what is explained a little more in the next supplement, we learn that Impostor was originally intended to be one part in a small Sci-Fi Trilogy. After Miramax and Dimension films saw the dailies of the short, they came to the decision that the film held a lot of potential and was worth a full feature treatment.

The original short runs for 37 minutes and 39 seconds and essentially goes on to tell the exact same story as the feature film, but without all the padding. The short is made up of pretty much everything we would see at the beginning and the end of the feature, with a few slight alterations. In many ways watching the short could also be viewed as a sudo-collection of deleted scenes - as it contains little snippets of dialogue that are not found in the feature.

Itís interesting to see the original short version of the film, but unfortunately it doesnít compare to the quality of the full length movie. Itís marred by lousy picture quality that is both too dark and loaded with print defects. Not only that, but the audio quality that I raved so much about in the previous section is nowhere to be found in the short. While the sound effects and music were identical, the short is only available in stereo.

It was a curiosity of mine to see the original short film, since it essentially spawned the feature, but somehow it just isnít worth watching when you have a better version of the movie on the disc already. In many ways it felt like an hour long episode of the Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, but without the inconvenience of commercials.

Next up we have a behind the scenes featurette entitled - The Impostor Files, which runs for approximately 11 minutes and 50 seconds. This short piece is primarily made up of interviews with some of the cast and crew, including the director, producer, production designers and visual effects people. In the beginning they quickly go over how this short film was picked up and eventually turned into a feature. The interviewees also discuss how they tried to make the film as believable as possible, despite taking place over 75 years in the future. The aim of the film makers was to create a futuristic environment that contained both architecture and technology that we would most likely see - if we were lucky enough to reach the ripe old age of 100-ish. Overall this small feature contained some decent information about the production of the film and was also fairly entertaining. Unfortunately this segment was a little shorter than I would have liked, but it was interesting none the less.

Also included on the DVD is an assortment of Sneak Peeks - although they hardly qualify as Impostor related material. Under this heading you can view a numbers of different trailers from films like Reindeer Games, Iron Monkey and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Woopee!

Despite that fact that Impostor recycled video clips and costumes from other, more notable Science Fiction films, I didnít find myself having any problems with the movie itself. While it will never reach the status of other Philip K. Dick stories like Blade Runner and Total Recall, I found that low expectations resulted in a fairly enjoyable viewing. Without a doubt I found much of the unfolding story to be fairly obvious and predictable, but at no time did I feel like it wasnít worth seeing - and that my time would have been better spent playing Ms. Pacman on my Atari.

The Impostor DVD features great picture quality and even better sound quality. While the sound was very rich and enjoyable, I didnít find that the film really pushed the audio to its limits. As far as the supplements went, they were acceptable, but by no means exceptional. Seeing the original short version of the film was a nice little extra, but when you have the full length feature right there are your fingertips, I really canít see why anyone would bother to watch it more than once - unless of course, they had a bus to catch in 45 minutes and donít have time to watch the full length movie.

Impostor is certainly worth a rental, but only serious Sci-Fi fans would find enough redeeming qualities in the film to make it worth adding to their library. I own the DVD now, and Iím sure that one day Iíll throw it into my player for another viewing, but thatís probably not going to happen any time soon. My recommendation is to play it safe and check it out first.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 12
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