Specially selected by FBI agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette), Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe), a young, idealistic agent, is sent undercover with orders to infiltrate and possibly terminate a radical team of white supremacists, capable of committing acts of terrorism. Faced with the day-to-day challenges of adopting a new, hostile personality and sticking to it, Nate
Since the inevitable climax of the behemoth which was Harry Potter, Radcliffe has since spent five years astonishing critics and audiences alike, as he committed himself to starring within a variety of genre films which were most certainly welcome, if not entirely successful. In 2012, he starred as homosexual poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, and recently appeared within the upcoming and utterly zany Swiss Army Man, as a decaying corpse who frequently passes wind. What sets Radcliffe apart from other actors of his calibre and age, is that he isn’t afraid to experiment. He might have found his acting niche as “the boy who lived”, but to seemingly avoid becoming typecast, Radcliffe dares to attach himself to projects which have defied categorisation and ultimately, allow him to be challenged, whether he portrays a lovelorn teenager imbued with devilish abilities or Radcliffe himself chalks it up to his “weird taste” . But this reviewer isn’t particularly convinced.
The public’s perception of Radcliffe may not have changed, but nevertheless, his roles express choices to defy the idea of being typecast and a personal draw towards originality, which is admirable. But, it seems as though Radcliffe’s work within Imperium is only serviceable, as he is most certainly miscast in a role which requires a certain physical presence, which he is unable to provide – simply due to his natural physique. Nevertheless, Radcliffe endeavours to succeed, providing a performance which may work, but only intermittently. It is the supporting cast who truly shine, such as Sam Trammell. His portrayal of an intellectual white supremacist is truly unsettling, as he seductively attempts to reshape Foster’s outlook, utilising classic literature.
For all of the film’s aggravating plot developments, Imperium does benefit from the writing of Daniel Ragussis and Michael German, who frequently lace the film with an undercurrent of black humour and fascinating lines of dialogue. At one point, Zamparo says “We all create a narrative based on what we think is important. We see what we want to see.” It remains the film’s most interesting idea, which is unexpectedly linked to racial stereotyping. Another sequence sees Foster (whilst undercover) attend the birthday party of a child at the home of many cultured, but unashamedly racist white supremacists. He is offered a cupcake, but to his horror, realises that they have the Nazi party’s insignia iced onto them. The scene itself is a far cry from the exaggerated Neo-Nazis found within Green Room, as this film attempts to civilise these characters and actually understand what they believe in, without negatively labelling them immediately as cold-blooded killers. Instead, the time spent with these fascists is captivating. Assured, directorial control also exudes from Imperium, as each scene is meticulously crafted down to its shot types and colour grading, which grants the film a distinctive and expensive look, despite a low budget.
Despite being co-written by former FBI agent Michael German (he spent fifteen years undercover alongside white supremacist groups), Imperium is, for the most part, a miasma of clichéd crime thrillers – from the haggard government officials who hastily employ idealistic agents, to the inevitable and costly near-misses an agent will encounter. The film’s pacing and narrative structure may generate tension, yet it only leads to a denouement of diminishing, if naturalistic returns, in spite of competent support from Toni Collette and Sam Trammell.