Imperium

 

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An FBI story for the present age that gives Daniel Radcliffe another interesting role.

 
Imperium 

Seth Numrich challenges Daniel Radcliffe

 

Like Brad Furman's film released a week earlier, this first feature by Daniel Ragussis might well have been entitled The Infiltrator. It tells the story of a young FBI agent, Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe), who is picked by a senior operator (Toni Collette) to go undercover in order to get evidence against a group of white supremacists. Imperium, despite being uneven, is the better film and also the more pertinent since The Infiltrator dealt with events in the 1980s whereas this work is contemporary and, given the state of things in America today, any tale that takes on racist groups and acts of terrorism has a powerful, topical slant. And that's no less so despite the fact that the behaviour and attitudes depicted also hark back to Neo-Nazism and indeed to the Ku Klux Klan. Taking on a role in a film tackling such material once again confirms that Radcliffe, on good form here, is an actor who usually chooses his roles with care. 

 

But, if the subject matter is apt both for providing strong drama and for confronting the audience with disturbing realities, just how true the story actually is remains an open question. The all-too-familiar declaration 'Inspired by Real Events'  appears at the outset, but the screenplay by Ragussis is said to be based on a story by ex-FBI member Michael German and the closing credits declare without any qualification that the characters and events depicted are fictitious. As played out on screen, the circumstances in which Nate is first chosen and then trained don't really ring true and the film's final section (one in which the mission suddenly triumphs but only after hazards have arisen that had appeared to be a fatal set-back) has a somewhat fictional air to it. The fault is in the writing since Collette, who is prominent in these scenes, is as reliable as ever.

 

Fortunately the greater part of Imperium with Nate taking on his undercover role and seeking to earn the confidence of a range of white supremacists is far more telling. These scenes may again have been fictionalised but, in contrast to the risible implausibilities in The Infiltrator, they are credible enough for us to suspend disbelief. Furthermore, they speak of what is happening whether fictionalised or not and the film is helped too by the able supporting performances from actors such as Tracy Letts and Sam Trammell. On balance, then, Imperium is worthwhile both as contemporary comment and as dramatic entertainment even if its standard of achievement is variablemaking.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Seth Numrich, Pawel Szajda, Devin Druid, Chris Sullivan, Nestoir Carbonell, Burn Gorman, Sam Trammell.

 

Dir Daniel Ragussis, Pro Ty Walker, Simon Taufique, Dennis Lee and Daniel Ragussis, Screenplay (from a story by Michael German) Daniel Ragussis, Ph Bobby Bukowski, Pro Des Kristen Adams, Ed Sara Corrigan, Music Will Bates, Costumes Amy Andrews-Harrell.

 

Lionsgate Premiere/Atomic Features/Tycor International Film/Grindstone Entertainment-Signature Entertainment.
109 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 23 September 2016. Cert. 15.