From the Archive – Impostor (2002)


“In the future, not everyone is who they seem to be.”

Directed by Gary Fleder
Starring Gary Sinise, Madeline Stowe, Vincent D’Onofrio and Mekhi Phifer

This film was awarded the BMM Special Award for painful lack of professional ability on the part of the military industrial complex 

Genius scientist Spence Olham (Sinise) and his wife, Maya (Stowe) – a brilliant surgeon – are the toast of a world at war with the Centaurans, where the surviving cities are hidden under huge force domes.

Suddenly, internal security cop Major Hathaway (D’Onofrio) is accusing Olham of being an android double with no idea of his true nature and an undetectable bomb in his chest. Turns out that they intercepted a Centauri transmission with the name Olham on a list of replication targets, and they think he’s there to blow up the Chancellor (Lindsay Crouse). Rather than submit to the definitive exam – which involves a big whirly blender on a stick, and is on the fatal side – Olham takes it on the lam, accidentally wasting his best friend in the process. Hathaway pursues, willing to be proved wrong in retrospect rather than find that Olhambot has a secondary trigger that might take out half the city.

Seeking help from slum dweller Cade (Phifer), he breaks into Maya’s hospital for a scan which can prove he is who he says he is, but is interrupted and nearly caught. Finally, he and Maya head into the forest where he realises that a massive fire was his would-be replacement crashing and burning. He finds the wrecked ship as Hathaway catches up to them, and inside finds the body of his murdered wife. Hathaway shoots Mayabot in case she has a secondary trigger.

Then they find a second compartment with a dead Spence inside, and – both assassin bots being uncovered – Spencebot’s secondary trigger blows them all to hell.

What do you expect? It’s based on a Philip K Dick short story.

What’s wrong with it?

“I’m not afraid of you! You’re not John Malkovich!”

The film’s main problem lies in the sheer, impossible griplessness of Hathaway and his goons. Despite being the elite security force in a world at war with a relentless aggressor, they are apparently unable to catch or hold a very frightened nuclear engineer. This happens in a lot of films of course, but in this case it seems especially off-key, particularly in the initial escape scene, where Olham breaks out of a maximum security interrogation chamber. In addition, D’Onofrio is – for some bizarre reason – clearly playing John Malkovich in this movie, which is very distracting.

Many of the film’s messages are also laid on a little thick, such as Spence offering Cade pharmacy drugs in exchange for his aid, only to find that he takes the bona fide medical supplies for the slum hospital, instead of the narcotics, and the coldness of the Chancellor and her staff. You know; because the audience might not get that fascist oppression, even when justified by a colossal external threat, is bad.

Finally, for what is essentially a suspense thriller, there’s not a great deal of suspense. It’s pretty obvious from the moment we learn that the name ‘Olham’ was intercepted that the other Olham is the robot, and the fact that he’s one too is also flagged well in advance.

What’s right with it?

When you’re not being distracted by hopeless security forces, the film looks incredible. The ‘Making of…’ feature on the DVD shuffles the Director off camera as quickly as possible, in order to devote two-thirds of its length to the visual design team; and rightly so.

How bad is it really?

Not terrible, but it doesn’t hold the interest well enough for you to really care once you hit the downbeat Philip K Dick finale. The film has some good moments, and some spectacularly tedious quarters of an hour. In the final analysis, it’s not really worth making any effort to see.

Best bit?

Having had his ident-chip removed, Olham slips it into Hathaway’s pocket, so that the poor bloody cop spends ten minutes chasing himself around in circles.

What’s up with…?

  • Being John Malkovich? Not the Spike Jonez film, although the question is valid, but Vincent D’Onofrio spending the entire movie doing a – fairly passable – Malkovich impression.
  • Philip K. Dick? I mean, seriously? What exactly was it that destroyed all his faith in humanity and made him into the relentlessly miserable motherfucker whose nihilistic work we all know and – in some cases – love?


Production Values: Spiffing. You watching here, Lucasfilms? ‘Cause you could maybe learn a thing or two. I mean, it’s almost a shame to set this ho-hum movie in such beautiful surroundings. 2

Dialogue and performances: Workaday, but in no cases terrible. None of the leads are exactly putting in a career best – aside from D’Onofrio’s peerless Malkovich impersonation, matching the record for sustained use of somebody else’s persona hitherto held alone by Christopher Lloyd for playing Lance Henriksen in Convergence (easily beating out Ryan Phillipe, playing John Malkovich in Cruel Intentions) – but they are all good actors. 7

Plot and execution: Overextended. Most of the ‘surprises’ are too long flagged, and the interest is not held. 12

Randomness: Not a great deal, aside from the previously mentioned crap-assness of the security police. 9

Waste of Potential: This probably would have made a truly superb Outer Limits episode, but no; they had to go and make a full-length movie of it. And the director must have felt shame watching all that production design go to waste. 15

Overall 45%


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