by Grant Cronin
“For evil to triumph, it only takes good men… to do nothing.”
Daniel Radcliffe gives his best performance to date in a taut and tense thriller in which the focus is only let down by its predictable finish.
The debut feature from director Daniel Ragussis, Imperium centres around idealistic FBI agent, Nate Foster, played with excellence by Radcliffe. Foster is an outsider, smart and a loner. His interactions with other FBI agents is more akin to a jock vs nerd relationship you would see in a 1980s high school film and you sense this discomfort from him. He’s good at his job, he wants to change the world for the better but he’s struggling. It’s this struggle at being an outsider is what attracts Agent Zamparo (Toni Collette) to headhunt Foster to go undercover and infiltrate neo-Nazi and white supremacist gangs that are possibly planning terror attacks on US soil.
Imperium is tense from start to finish and this tension cannot be understated; for parts of the film and the duration of the third act I was on edge. You genuinely put yourself in Foster’s position. What would you do? You ask yourself constantly throughout. Foster acts as the catalyst for the movie, ironically attempting to uncover a terrorist plot but acting as the shot of adrenaline for a movement that seems for the most part, all talk.
It is only the very end, when everything seems to be nicely wrapped up, when you sense that you are being undersold. The plot is predicable at times, but this should not detract from a movie that follows Green Room this year by delving into murky neo-Nazi culture and ideology. The movie is grounded, nothing happens that you wouldn’t believe hasn’t happened already to someone, somewhere and Imperium benefits greatly from this. You are set up this world and believe everything that happens it it. As you should, this could end up being one of the more terrifying movies of the year.
I tried to promise myself I wouldn’t mention the obvious in this review, but Radcliffe is absolutely throwing off the potential shackles of being Harry Potter. Since finishing the wizarding franchise he has been picking his roles perfectly and this is no exception. The rest of the cast are more than functional and do the job they need to do, but it is Radcliffe that holds them and the movie together. Bring on Swiss Army Man.
Imperium plays like a mash-up of The Departed and American History X; whilst not being quite as satisfying or effective as either I can definitely send you out to watch it. Catch it whilst you can.
Imperium will be on limited release in the UK from September 23rd.
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