Cinema Review: Imperium | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Studio: Lionsgate Premiere
Directed by Daniel Ragussis

Aug 18, 2016 Web Exclusive
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The exterior of Imperium, a suspense/thriller from feature film newcomer Daniel Ragussis, portends a kind of drama that is apparently more difficult to deliver in this era of filmmaking – the smart kind. Daniel Radcliffe endeavors to inhabit the challenging role of Nate Foster, a green federal agent who becomes embedded in the world of rural American white supremacy. When his conspiracy sniffing superior, played in typical quirkiness by Toni Collette, spots leverage in his untainted gumption, a challenge is issued and Foster reluctantly plunges undercover to stifle a domestic terrorist plot.

Stories like these, particularly ones inspired by true events, need a weight of character to stand up to the element of danger they pose. The shockwave of an event like the Oklahoma City bombing is recorded in our collective psyche and makes watching a tableau of that horror more frightening through association. That’s how suspense functions best, when you’re genuinely unnerved by imagining yourself in the face of real evil. But the fear of the threat must be sold by the agents of its repercussion. This is where Imperium wilts. It fails to convince in the way other dramatic examples of white supremacist and extremist personification have, in presenting a callous dementedness in its antagonists that spooked you the fuck out. From the desert dwelling sickos in Breaking Bad, to the philosophic intensity of Edward Norton in American History X (I still cringe sometimes at the sight of a street curb) or in the hokier manner of Tim Robbins in Arlington Road, the disturbance set the tone. Even Cole Hauser in Higher Learning made you shiver a little at the thought of young, troubled men out there like him, with idle time and poisoned world views.

Radcliffe is not the problem. While there is a lingering connection to that boy wizard still dangling from his pant leg cuff, he sustains the appropriate tension and conflicted angst of an FBI agent in such a predicament. The issue is that the supremacist figures he is infiltrating, while appearing to scare him, don’t scare you, from the low ranking skinheads up to the more evolved leaders hiding in plain sight. This makes for a lackluster build up that betrays stake raising, leaving the anti-climax feeling inconsequential. Collette’s off-beat humanising of a government official provides a well intentioned counterpoint to Radcliffe’s implanted dealings but wears thin as the tension of the plot fades. In order for that mentor to bright young talent bureau dynamic to work, as it did so well with Scott Glenn and Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs, there must be a Buffalo Bill in the darkness.

Author rating: 3/10

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Average reader rating: 1/10


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