VOD film review: Imperium
Chris Bryant | On 23, Sep 2016
Director: Daniel Ragussis
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette
Watch Imperium online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“There’s so much hate. How do you reason with someone like that?” That’s idealist FBI Agent Nate Foster, who goes undercover with white supremacists on the trail of stolen explosives in Imperium.
Daniel Radcliffe’s rookie, as handled by Toni Collete’s no-nonsense veteran, makes contact with some low-level skinheads, initially in the hope of gaining more powerful members’ attention – and that he certainly does. And so he is forced to empathise with the group in order to remain above suspicion.
Foster’s quick-thinking and book-smarts add to the thrills, as he continually talks his way into more dangerous circles. The film pulls focus from the standard “Will he be discovered?” angle to dwell more on Foster’s relationship with the movement’s members. While this does cause a notable drop in excitement, it gives Imperium a level of intellect absent from similar films. Here, the Neo-Nazis are not a single terrifying organisation constantly on the heels of an out-of-his-depth cop. They are people – which makes them even more dangerous.
Radcliffe’s subtle performance as a scared intellectual is the heart of the film, but the brain is certainly Collete’s Agent Zamparo. She is excellent as Foster’s foul-mouthed, smokes-at-her-desk handler, who manipulates his ability to empathise with anyone. It is Zamparo’s speech regarding the missing caesium-137 that incites the fear that lasts the entire film, reeling off domestic terrorist attacks carried out by white supremacists.
Imperium’s tension derives more from the idea that these hate-filled people are human beings than the events that are unfolding. Montages of symbolism, plus a few drops of blood, ensure that the audience doesn’t get too comfy, and Daniel Ragussis’ writing delivers his message and twists in the same motion, giving the conclusion a thoughtful, dangerous edge to it.
Overall, Imperium does an enviable job of delivering a commentary on the judgement of the masses – it is a production that elects to trade bite for purpose. Those wishing for a thought-provoking thriller with roots in ideology and sociology will be well catered for; those hoping for a breakneck ride packed with blind rage will be less so. This is a subtle, brooding venture into hate, deconstructing the public view of terrorism and making some bold statements in the process – proving that with racism, not everything is black and white.
Imperium is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.