Dimension Films // 2002 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 2nd, 2002
In the future, not everyone is who they seem to be.
You'd have thought Gary Sinise would have been able to pick a better project to produce than this. And with a cast as commendable as this (Vincent D'Onofrio, Madeline Stowe) you'd have thought director Gary Felder (Kiss the Girls) would have been given a bigger budget for such a futuristic story. You'd have thought all of this and more, but you'd have been wrong. Impostor came and went very quickly upon its theatrical release and now makes its DVD bow care of Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
It is the year 2079 and Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise, Apollo 13) is a world renowned governmental scientist who's working on a project that could save the world. In the future, the people of earth live under giant electromagnetic domes to protect against air raids from the Centauri, a master alien race that wants to destroy our planet. The Centauri, if they are lucky enough to sneak onto the planet, are able to impersonate humans and carry bombs in their hearts which can cause mass destruction where ever they are triggered. Spencer, who lives a simple life with his doting wife (Madeline Stowe, 12 Monkeys), is suddenly and without warning taken away by the vicious and determined agent Hathaway (Vincent D'Onofrio, Men in Black). After being strapped into a seat that looks a lot like the dentist's chair from Marathon Man, Spencer is told that the Centauri have taken over his body and are planning on detonating a bomb at a gathering with the chancellor. The government's only option: kill Spencer. Of course, Spencer believes none of this, breaking free of his confines and becoming a fugitive from the law! As Spencer is being tracked by Hathaway he's assisted by a street person (Mekhi Phifer, O) who agrees to help Spencer in exchange for some drugs at a hospital where Spencer's wife works. With time running out and nowhere left to run, Spencer must come face-to-face with Hathaway and convince him that he really is the human Spencer and not the assumed Impostor!
You know things aren't looking good when you check the RottenTomatoes.com website and the film in question only has a 16% acceptance rating. And so it goes for director Gary Felder's sci-fi thriller Impostor, based on the short story by famed author Phillip K. Dick (Minority Report, Total Recall, Blade Runner). The movie stars Gary Sinise (who along with Felder also produced) as Richard Kimble...oops, I mean Spencer Olham, a fugitive being chased by Tommy Lee Jones...oops, I mean Vincent D'Onofrio. Actually, we're all grown adults so I'm just going to be blunt: Impostor is literally The Fugitive set in space. Instead of a murder, the wrongly-convicted Spencer is being chased due to alien treason. There are so many scenes in Impostor that remind one of director Andrew Davis' The Fugitive that it's almost eerie: a chase in the woods, a SWAT team of cops, an ending where Spencer and Hathaway finally meet...in fact, had Impostor been renamed The Fugitive 3: Cosmic Crisis, I don't think anyone would have noticed. As for the film itself, it's a genial enough thriller featuring some good special effects and some really lame special effects (the opening sequence features an outer space battle that appears to have been transplanted from a 1997 computer game). Sci-fi fans will be sorely disappointed to see that while some of the sets and locations look futuristic, the bulk of this movie feels like a made-for-TV flick off the Sci-Fi Channel. Gary Sinise goes into panic mode as Spencer, sneering and panting like a rabid dog chasing his tail. Vincent D'Onofrio as the pursuing Hathaway has none of Tommy Lee Jones' charm or arrogance. While I'm a big fan of D'Onofrio's work, in Impostor the actor is given little to do put run around and shout out orders to his military clad soldiers. Impostor includes the now standard twist ending, and while it's somewhat of a shocker I can't say that I was all the surprised. You could do a lot worse on a Friday night than Impostor, though keep in mind you could also do a lot better.
Impostor is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Buena Vista's work on this transfer is far better than expected -- with solid black levels and a vast array of colors, this is a great looking picture. While I did spot a few small instances of edge enhancement, overall the picture quality on Impostor is very attractive and pleasant. The soundtrack is presented in a bombastic Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, and all I can say is wow! For a sci-fi movie that's basically a chase film, I was shocked at how full and dynamic this track ended up being. Directional effects swirl around the viewer almost the entire way though without any hiss or distortion hindering the mix. If nothing else, Impostor is worth seeing just for its rumbling, all-encompassing soundtrack! Also included on this disc are Spanish and English subtitles.
Buena Vista has decided to throw viewers a few bones by tacking on a couple of extra features to this disc. The first and strangest is the original short film version of Impostor. No explanation is given as to why this was made or what its purpose is; all I can tell you is that it appears to be the entire film cut down to about a tenth of the feature's run time. [Editor's Note: Word on the street is the short film was well received, so the filmmakers went back and filmed what was necessary to make it a full theatrical release.] If you're pressed for time I guess you can do the "Cliff's Notes" version of this film with this miniaturized short film version. "The Impostor Files" is a short featurette on the making of the film which includes interviews with Sinise, Felder, producer Marty Katz, production designer Nelson Coates, visual effects supervisor Joseph Grossberg, and more. Interestingly, Impostor was to be core film in a trilogy of sci-fi movies. This short piece encompasses almost every aspect of the film, including sets, costumes, locations, characters, and story. Finally, there is a theatrical trailer for the film as well as some bonus trailers for other Buena Vista movies.
I enjoyed Impostor enough, though it's nothing I will ever need to see again. Fans of sci-fi and action may enjoy this slight thriller, though don't hold your breath for anything overly fantastic. Buena Vista's work on this disc is good -- possibly better than it deserves.
Impostor is found guilty of being mediocre, though free on bail for being at the very least watchable.
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* "The Impostor Files" Featurette
* Original "Impostor" Short Film
* Theatrical Trailer
* Bonus Trailers
* Philip K. Dick Fansite