When a film starts with a Hitler quote you know some messed up shit is going to go down… or disappointingly not.
Imperium stars, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, The Woman in Black), Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine), Tracy Letts (The Big Short, August: Osage County), Sam Trammell (True Blood, The Fault in Our Stars) and is written and directed by Daniel Ragussis, making his feature film debut.
FBI agent Nate Foster (Radcliffe) goes undercover to infiltrate a white supremacy terrorist group. He befriends members in the group to uncover their secret plan to start a revolution that could change America forever.
I’ve been reviewing all the Harry Potter films recently in build-up towards Fantastic Beasts later this year and if you’ve read any of those reviews, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Daniel Radcliffe. So whenever he’s in a film I always have to see it and I’m always excited to see what he’s doing next. I watched half of the trailer for this film (in fear of being too spoiled) and I had high expectations that this could be a really tense, thrilling film. It has its moments, it’s enjoyable but overall I was disappointed.
What intrigued me the most about Imperium, was Daniel Radcliffe taking on a role that would disconnected him from the Harry Potter character. That aspect for me was fulfilling. Radcliffe is excellent in this film, in showing a very serious version of himself and proving he has it in him to play different characters. This isn’t the deepest film ever and Nate Foster isn’t the most compellingly written but Radcliffe carries this film, making you want to follow this person. I don’t think this film will completely shake off the Harry Potter persona for everyone but for me, it showed great promise for Daniel Radcliffe’s future.
Imperium is also populated with many other actors, all giving solid performances. Toni Collette plays an FBI agent who takes Radcliffe under her wing and assigns him this task. Collette is an actress who I’ve always enjoyed for years and yet again she pops up in a role I think is unjustly going to be overlooked. There isn’t many (in fact probably not enough) but she and Radcliffe have some wonderful moments together, creating at least one story element that gives us reason to want to see Nate Foster get through this successfully. Tracy Letts and Sam Trammell are good too but more importantly Benny, owner of Benny’s Burgers from Stranger Things makes a very welcome appearance!
The film is well paced. It’s under 2 hours and it goes by very quickly. I have problems with the film, which I’ll get to shortly but I can’t deny I was entertained throughout. Imperium isn’t going to change your life and it definitely thinks it’s more important than it actually is but if you want to just see a simple thriller, with some intense moments, then you’ll enjoy this film. If however you’ll like me and wanted to see something that would really get you talking… well this won’t do that for you.
Honestly, as far as skinhead, white supremacists go, these guys are weak. When I saw the trailer for this film I was excited to see a violent, messed up film like American History X or even this years Green Room, which used skinhead’s in a really effective way. Imperium never took that big leap with it’s characters and violence, that made me really fear for Nate Foster. Another film about undercover agents I thought of, was Donnie Brasco. There are scenes in that film when Johnny Depp’s character sees and does things he can’t turn back on and you realise the people he’s involved with, are not to be messed with. Imperium failed to make me scared, it failed to get my heart pumping because I never actually thought Nate Foster was in life-threatening danger.
Another problem this film suffers from is there wasn’t enough connection to Nate Foster, outside of “That’s Daniel Radcliffe and I like him”. Going back to Donnie Brasco and how masterfully that film is put together, Johnny Depp has a family, a wife and children he’s leaving behind, so you have an emotional connection to his character. Whenever he’s in danger, you’re also thinking of the other lives his death would affect. However the way Imperium is set up, if anything happened to Nate Foster, no one would even notice. Unfortunately this story is all surface level and has no layers to bite into.
Maybe it’s not deep but at least it will have an exciting ending or big twist, right? Nope, it’s formulaic and predictable from the word go. The ending actually falls flat. In fact the more I think about it, this film probably needed a longer running time, to create a engaging story and build towards a better ending. When it ends, it just kinda… ends. It felt like it needed another 20 minutes to get to the climax but instead leaves you wanting more (in a bad way). There’s also a lot of loose ends that are completely forgotten about as the film wraps up. A character literately says “We’ll see you soon” and then never comes back. Maybe we’ll get a super, deluxe, mega, extended edition that comes with your very own collectible hair clippers.
If you’re looking for the next Donnie Brasco or American History X, you’re not going to find it with Imperium but if you just want to be entertained for a couple of hours, this will suffice. If you like Daniel Radcliffe this was an interesting role for him and hopefully it might sway naysayers who don’t think he can break the HP bubble. Imperium (wait, I’m sure that’s a spell Harry has used before), isn’t a film I’ll be watching again but I’m happy I saw it.
Have you seen Imperium and what did you think of it?