Film Review – Imperium (2016)


Imperium simply suggests having absolute power. Daniel Radcliffe has that Imperium as he can pick and choose whatever script he has thrown his way. He can’t get any more mainstream than what he’s already done, as in playing that famous wizard. How does an actor with that instant success and fame maintain prestige or respect? First and foremost, it is about taking a step back and choosing roles that have acting challenges in independent features. Furthermore to play more obscure roles will help. Ultimately it is about moving on from the character you are most notably known for and not being afraid to take risks. Daniel Radcliffe has done this without a doubt.

From playing Arthur Kipps in ‘The Woman in Black’ to Igor in ‘Victor Frankenstein’ are just two examples of those risks. He was too young to play Kipps, but proved to critics that age is only a number. However when playing Igor he gave his 100% effort despite the film being mediocre. In his new film ‘Imperium’ he plays an FBI undercover agent to infiltrate white supremacy terrorists. Now is that a risk to undertake or not? And the question is, is it any good?

The premise involves: Idealistic FBI agent Nate Foster who goes undercover to take down a radical white supremacy terrorist group. The up-and-coming analyst must confront the challenge of sticking to a new identity while maintaining his real principles as he navigates the dangerous underworld of white supremacy. With a story like this, one would assume that there would be an array of violence present. It is imperative that viewers are aware there is no violence in this film. The film relies on dramatic irony, where the audience know Radcliffe is an undercover agent and the tension of him being caught by the white supremacists is spellbinding. Just don’t expect an ‘American History X’ or ‘Romper Stomper’ type of film. Expect to see visual images of things that will shock you from: Radcliffe fitting the bill as a skinhead neo Nazi or couples getting married in a Ku Klux Klan environment of burnt crosses in their midst and white power marches and protests where Radcliffe says the ‘N’ word.

All the sincerity of the film is played by the undertone of violence and what could happen or more rather the potential of the violence that may occur. The problem is that the audience would expect an undercover agent to follow the regular conventions of getting into deep like ‘Point Break’s’ Utah befriending Bodhi and becoming too emotionally attached to bring him down. In ‘Imperium’ Radcliffe’s Nate Foster maintains his intelligence and principles all the way through. There are no slip ups that everything goes almost smoothly. He maintains his professionalism and has an objective to bring these people down. This may be a disappointment to others adding onto the fact that there is no violence. The people who will enjoy ‘Imperium are people who are squeamish as it provides the right layers of tension without seeing anything graphic.

What can be commended about the film is it informs the viewer not to judge a book by its cover. The people who appear to be racists may not be the ones to look out for as they are just the middle men. It’s the clean cut appearance of an educated white man with a nice house, a pretty wife and two beautiful children to look out for. These families sadly exist who are into terrorism behind closed doors, using skinheads as their pawns to protect their king and queen. These are the characters in the film that grab the interest of the viewer.

Lastly a special praise and mention must go to Toni Collette playing Radcliffe’s FBI boss. Her bitchy character and chewing gum in every scene is an added addition to the bad cop that cares. E.G. Mark Wahlberg’s character in ‘The Departed’ would be a great comparison. Expect to be impressed with Radcliffe speaking Arabic for a good three minutes in the beginning of the film. This shows his dedication to acting and that he truly makes an effort to stand out. Here is a film that shows terrorism works both ways despite colour, race or religion. It’s not just the Islamic terrorism that dominates, but white supremacy can dominate too but goes more unnoticed. The key points are: Do not expect violence. Expect a controversial premise with undertones of violence.

| Aly Lalji

Crime, Drama, Thriller | USA, 2016 | 15 | Signature Entertainment | 23rd September 2016 (UK) | Dir.Daniel Ragussis | Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Burn Gorman, Sam Trammell

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