It is hard not to be shocked by a film about Nazis. The shocking part is that I end up believing the Nazis on-screen more than the leading character.
Brief synopsis: Imperium is a film about an FBI agent that goes undercover as a white supremacist to find an alleged dirty bomb.
So, let’s get the first part out of the way.
I basically grew up with Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. Whenever I see him he is basically Harry Potter trying to do other things. Which is fine. I saw him in Horns where he was clearly trying to break out of the typical, cookie cutter role he’s had forever. It was weird, but it was entertaining. But the most important thing was that I was able to understand and believe his character. No matter how bizarre it was.
In Imperium I am waiting for character development that never surfaces. Yes, he is an underappreciated FBI agent who gets noticed by FBI Agent Zamparo, played by Toni Collette and is pulled into the white supremacists’ world to infiltrate their organization. He also has some idealistic hopes of understanding them and maybe even changing them?
Okay. I can buy that scenario.
But what I kept waiting for never happened.
Here, you have this guy building this cover story of who is he and what he is. He keeps repeating his cover story over and over again till you can’t forget it. But as the audience, you spend so little time with him before he goes undercover he’s basically just skinhead Harry Potter. There’s no context to this person other than the brief time you see him in an FBI cap and jacket.
Personally, I want to know other than the loner, wine drinker: who is the guy? And what also irks me about the character development is that you don’t really know how he feels about the white supremacists. Sure, the director throws in several moments of photo montages of Nazis in an attempt to stir emotion in the audience but what about our lead guy? Is there hidden motivation that is secret only to the director and cast? Be transparent with your characters. Don’t just paste up these traditional archetypes and be like, “Oh, you know how this goes.”
No, I don’t.
Spell it out for me.
Take me through it.
I want to understand the process he/she is going through.
That isn’t to say Radcliffe fails. Radcliffe shines the most when his character has the most on the line. I mean, honestly, if a dirty bomb was about to go off I would just lay on the floor and hold my breath.
Story wise, we got some problems.
Radcliffe’s character is supposedly climbing these tiers of the white supremacist organization. However, the director loses track of every tier once Radcliffe moves on. I’m not an expert in the workings of the different levels of this kind of organizations but you would think they wouldn’t just fade into the background like that. Especially when it seems like certain people may not think the protagonist is who he says he is. You can’t introduce a character that highly suspects the protagonist and then just – oops – forget about him later. It comes off as sloppy.
The director sacrifices key steps in the progress of the story in order to heighten character intensity which is also strangely lacking.
This film kept me on the edge of my seat/pillow but in retrospect the many miss-steps took away from what could have been a very deeply engrossing film.