Technical Specifications: Widescreen (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9
televisions, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Spanish subtitles
Creepy but beloved character actor Tracey Walter as a sci-fi version
of a crazy old coot.
A few years ago
Miramax had a cool idea to do an anthology film. The studio hired
three directors to do shorts involving science fiction love stories.
You may have noticed by now that that film never came out; instead,
one of those shorts, Impostor, got sent back to the director
with instructions to turn it into a full-length feature.
Not a particularly
flashy film in either effects or star status, Dimension (the "genre"
division of Miramax) dumped Impostor in the middle of the Christmas
season, where it quickly disappeared. This did director Gary Fleder's
work a disservice, as Impostor is a fairly thoughtful science
fiction entry (based on a short story by Philip K. Dick) that works
pretty well on video.
Gary Sinise produces
and stars as Spencer Olham, a brilliant scientist working for the
Earth Government. Deeply in love with his wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe),
a doctor, Olham has a pretty secure life in a world on the edge. For
at least thirty years, our planet has been at war with the vicious
Centauri, a faceless enemy (as far as the movie presents them, anyway)
that is, according to Olham's voice-over, "…genetically superior to
As a result of
this war, a near-fascist government rules, led by the high and mighty
Chancellor (Lindsay Crouse). She'll be coming to Olham's lab to see
his finest achievement: a bomb that should easily destroy Centauri
ships. But the mysterious ESA agent Major Hathaway (Vincent D'onofrio)
has intercepted a Centauri communiqué claiming that Spencer Olham
has been replaced by a genetic cyborg bomb that only thinks
it's Olham. Its target: The Chancellor.
Like much of
Dick's work, Impostor delves into the question of identity,
and the very meaning of self. Hathaway claims that the Centauri can
duplicate Olham's memories, but they cannot take his soul. But if
the man who thinks he's Olham behaves with the same conflicted compassion
(Olham built the bomb but longs for peace), how could he not
The movie meanders
off-topic a bit to become a long chase scene, and it's in those moments
meant to pad it to feature length that Impostor runs a little
awkwardly. Just in case you missed the thematic connection to Blade
Runner (based on Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?),
the script starts referring to Olham as a replicant, taking him out
into a bombed-out city that owes more than a little in concept to
Ridley Scott's vision.
There Olham runs
into Cale (Mekhi Phifer), one of the few healthy humans in "the zone."
The two reach an agreement to get Olham back into the city and to
the Veteran's Hospital, where Olham can perform a molecular test to
prove his identity, and Cale can steal enough pharmaceutical supplies
to save his people.
But Fleder has
added a few twists of his own. The soundtrack carries a couple of
bites that sound like fascist rallies are happening somewhere in the
city. And Olham's ambivalence toward the war clearly comes before
the accusation that he's not who he thinks he is.
Though the DVD
extras are pretty sparse, including the usual behind-the-scenes featurette,
Miramax has included the original short film. Comparing the two reveals
surprising differences. The short actually ends up being more complex
emotionally, with the implication that the war may actually be part
of a government scheme. Though the Centauri don't appear in either
version, the short has sympathy for the aliens. In the final film,
however, it's clear that while the government may have its flaws,
they're nothing compared to those rat bastard aliens that killed Olham's
Truth be told,
the short works a little better, but either version makes good watching.
Now if they could only dig up the other two shorts from the anthology…
Impostor (Director's Cut) at Amazon.com