Consider the evolution of “futuristic” sci-fi movies. Just a scant decade ago filmmakers would be thankful if they could just render a futuristic cityscape that looks something like their vision. Models and matte painting were often used; those were primitive tools compared to the CGI-inspired worlds of today. Nowadays making a spectacular futuristic city using nothing but intangible CGI is a thing of simplicity. It’s a poor filmmaker with shallow purse strings that can’t afford to hire a team of computer graphics engineers to “create” a futuristic city for them. Imagine it, and it can be done.
Impostor stars Gary Sinise as Spence Olham, a human weapons designer who builds big bad weapons for the big bad government to fight a big bad alien enemy called the Centauri. It’s 70 years in the future, and mankind is hopelessly deadlocked in an intergalactic war with the unseen (but often heard of) Centauri aliens, who makes a bad habit of attacking Earth from orbit. This means humans are forced to live inside giant domes protected by energy barriers to ward off the alien weaponry.
In this city, Spence and his lovely wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe) live a good life. Despite their opposition to the war, the two liberal pacifists do their jobs because not doing so could be seen as treason. Everything is fine, until Spence is accused by a spyhunter name Hathaway (Vincent D’Onofrio) of being a Centauri cyborg sent to assassinate the Chancellor! Is Spence an alien killing device that just doesn’t know it? Or is Hathaway wrong? Can Spence prove his innocence in time?
Impostor is what you might call a “throwaway” movie. It’s an assumption to think that there was something “more” behind the movie’s transformation from a short story by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick to the big screen. As realized, Impostor is a pointless but expensive film that only just barely manages to entertain because it showcase some nice CGI work and displays a wide variety of nifty “future technology.” One tip-off that even the producers knew they had a turkey on their hands is the pushing back of Impostor’s release date. The movie was scheduled to be release about a year before it was finally allowed into theaters — only to die a fast death, living little trace that it was ever there.
Impostor is a pointless Chase movie that has nothing else going for it, and doesn’t seem especially bothered by its lack of presence. Gary Sinise is not only not up to the task of playing an action-adventure hero, and Impostor’s army of writers seems unable to find any sort of focus. There is a very weak attempt to talk about poverty and the concept of “the rich lives well while the poor suffers,” but all of that is brushed aside for the sake of more chase sequences.
There’s also the matter of Spence and Maya’s opposition to the war. Unfortunately there’s no effort to really engage the audience in the pros and cons of fighting an intergalactic war. Although Spence and Maya’s thoughts on the war leave one to wonder if these two people are really that “out of it,” since they continue to badmouth everyone related to the war effort even as the enemy is bombing them from orbit!
Besides a fantastic but all-too brief view of the futuristic cityscape early in the film, the movie has few merits. Leads Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe seems unwilling to give their all; in fact, their performances bring to mind the phrase “picking up a paycheck.” The movie’s most complex and interesting character is Vincent D’Onofrio’s Hathaway, who is played as a tenacious, deadly, and calculating machine of a human. Hathaway’s character is of course a mirror image of Spence, who Hathaway accuses of being a cold-blooded killing machine, when it’s in fact the very human Hathaway who is the cold-blood killing machine. Unfortunately Impostor’s 4 (count them, four) writers are either incapable of realizing this terrific dichotomy, or if they did, were unable to offer anything but this poorly constructed script.
It doesn’t help that director Gary Fleder seems unmotivated to make anything worthy of the high production values at hand. The movie looks very expensive, and probably was. Fleder is probably not the only person who deserves the blame, as it’s highly probable that the producers realized their best bet was to heavily edit the film until it became nothing more than a series of elaborately choreographed chase sequences. As can be concluded by the final cut of Impostor, there is not a shred of evidence to indicate that the filmmakers had any ambitions whatsoever.
If plot holes and outlandish scenarios weren’t bad enough, Impostor should have been re-titled Starship Troopers Lite. Besides stealing the general premise of the 1997’s sci-fi “man versus aliens” movie, Impostor also includes a number of footages lifted directly from the former movie. Not only that, but Impostor’s filmmakers even re-used a lot of Starship Troopers’ props — including the “battle suits” — and many of the exterior locations! It’s bad enough that Impostor is a poor man’s Starship Troopers (a concept that in itself is rather questionable), but all of the latter movie’s satirical elements — including propaganda posters, Nazi-like atmosphere, and TV ads — were simply transferred over to Impostor’s sets!
Impostor is an impostor of a movie. Highly unintelligent, supremely lazy in its lack of ambition, and mind-boggling in its repetitive action sequences. If not for a stellar and insane performance by Vincent D’Onofrio, Impostor is a one-star movie — at best.
Gary Fleder (director) / Philip K. Dick (novel), Scott Rosenberg, Caroline Case, Ehren Kruger, David N. Twohy (screenplay)
CAST: Vincent D’Onofrio …. Hathaway
Tim Guinee …. Dr. Carone
Mekhi Phifer …. Cale
Tony Shalhoub …. Nelson Gittes
Gary Sinise …. Spence Olham
Madeleine Stowe …. Maya Olham