Distributed by: Lionsgate Premiere
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When you’re home with a cold, you tend to stare at the television, searching for something to make you feel better. For me, that would be a movie I haven’t seen before that seems interesting and will keep me from falling asleep…yet again…drooling like the dead. While surfing channels, I discovered a movie I had never heard of before starring Daniel Radcliffe as an FBI agent. I thought, “Hey, this looks interesting.”
In Imperium, Daniel Radcliffe is Nate Foster, an FBI agent that spends most of his time in the field office behind a computer, filing reports and feeling less than enthusiastic about his career. That is, until he is approached by Agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette), who suspects that white supremacists may be involved in a recent theft of illegally imported caesium-137. The amount of caesium-137 and the volatility of the chemical substance leads Zamparo to believe that the supremacists are about to start a race war ala the attempt by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma.
Zamparo sees something in Nate that leads her to believe he can go undercover and infiltrate a white supremacist group associated with her main target, conservative talk radio host Dallas Wolf (Tracy Letts), who she believes is inciting and perhaps in charge of a homegrown terrorist plot. Fellow high-ranking Agent Tom Hernandez (Nestor Carbonell) thinks this is a bad idea and, in fact, a wild goose chase, but allows Zamparo and Nate some leeway in case he is wrong.
Introduced into a small group led by Vince Sargent (Pawel Szajda), Nate is eventually introduced to the leaders of all of the local white supremacy movements. Each group’s leader has reasons for wanting a race war, but not every group has the means or capability to know what to do with the missing caesium-137, nor the vision to carry out a terrorist act that will start this war. As Nate rules out who might be capable of such an act, he learns more and more about the cause and who each of the players are. But when it comes time to snatch up those responsible for the missing explosive materials, the real leader of the plot surprises even Nate.
I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t much hype about Imperium and that it only had a limited release in theaters. As I see it, Imperium is a rather eye-opening film, offering insight into the minds of the various white supremacy groups out there. Where American History X was an introduction into the reasons behind an individual becoming involved in the movement and what it is about to them, this movie goes a tad bit further, teaching us more about the differences between each group and what they stand for. While some of their claims are outrageous, some actually make sense from a certain point of view and one could actually see how some could fall sway to the reasoning of some of these groups.
The other similarity I see with American History X is that there is actually one member of the group who joined after a bad experience with members of another race. By the end of the film, he realizes that he doesn’t really believe in the cause and decides to change his path, becoming a mentor for others and explaining how he realized he needed to change. Sound familiar?
Daniel Radcliffe shows incredible diversity in this film, presenting as a geeky computer nerd in the beginning of the film and becoming a tough, no-nonsense character by the end. His transformation into a former soldier with access to explosives who believes America is letting him down due to the color of his skin is remarkable to behold. Also impressive was Sam Trammell as Gerry Conrad, an engineer and cultured family man with ties to the white power movement.
The storyline of the film is excellent, though I felt the end a bit rushed. I knew who the planner of the dirty bomb was going to be by the last half hour, but that doesn’t mean the story was any less fascinating. Being a history buff, I loved that the creators of this film added true stories in the telling of this tale, commenting on the McVeigh’s of the world and bringing this movement into focus for those who have no idea how large it has become thanks to social media and the internet.
Imperium is a very timely film that raises further awareness to what we already see happening thanks to the recent presidential election. Those who kept to the shadows are coming out and preaching hate to all who will listen and Imperium basically calls them out while reminding us to be ever vigilant against these groups. I like movies that make you think and raise awareness to things that are happening in our lives whether we realize them or not. Imperium is an excellent movie with terrific acting and a great storyline that will make you think and that is the mark of a great film.