Rating 2½

Directed by Gary Fleder

Written by Richard Jeffries, Ehren Kruger and David Twohy – based on a short story by Philip K Dick, adapted by Scott Rosenberg with revisions by Caroline Case and Mark Protosevich

Starring Gary Sinise, Vincent D’Onofrio, Madeleine Stowe, Mekhi Phifer, Tony Shalhoub, Tim Guinee, Gary Dourdan, Elizabeth Peña and Lindsay Crouse

The Earth has been at war with an alien adversary for over a decade. Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise), the chief designer of a hugely destructive new intergalactic weapon, is accused by Major Hathaway (Vincent D’Onofrio), a ruthless officer in a clandestine government organisation, of being a replicant, effectively a living walking nuclear bomb. Olham manages to escape and enlists the help of Cale (Mekhi Phifer), an insurgent, in his desperate quest to prove his humanity. He says he can get access to much-needed medical supplies, from the hospital where his wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe) works as a senior doctor, in return for Cale’s help. All the while, Hathaway is hot on his trail.


As a boy and teenager in the 1960s and 1970s I watched television series like ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Star Trek’, ‘Lost in Space’ and ‘Blake’s 7’. I read the C S Lewis space trilogy, which made a big impact on me at the time, and from there many other sci-fi novels, including, notably, the work of Isaac Asimov, seeking out everything I could find by him. I loved 1950’s sci-fi films like ‘It Came From Outer Space’, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’, ‘Forbidden Planet’ and ‘This Island Earth’ – as well as British films like ‘Village of the Damned’, ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and ‘Quatermass and the Pit’. There is a lot of stuff I still do like, but somehow I grew out of love with science fiction a little bit.

I think it started with ‘Star Wars’, a film I have always disliked intensely. In fact, the extraordinary success of the whole franchise mystifies me. The gigantic popularity of the cloyingly sentimental ‘ET’ also put me off. Moving on several years, I really wanted to like John Carpenter’s ‘Ghosts of Mars’, but I thought it was awful. There is stuff I have liked – for example, ‘Starman’, the first ‘Alien’ film and ‘Event Horizon’ – but in recent years I have failed to get a grip on the widely acclaimed ‘Serenity’, despite watching it three times. A fourth attempt came to a premature end after little more than fifteen minutes when I decided I just could not take any more of the smugness of the thing. I can’t bring myself to watch ‘Battlestar Gallactica’, despite widespread claims that it is one of the greatest American television series ever made.

I am not a big fan of the writer Philip K Dick, despite his reputation. I tried reading things like ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ back in the days when I was reading Asimov, but somehow I did not make any connection to his work. There have been many film adaptations, starting with ‘Blade Runner’ in 1982, which was adapted from the aforementioned novel. ‘Total Recall’ followed, based on the short story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’, and since then the likes of ‘Minority Report’ and ‘A Scanner Darkly’, neither of which I have actually seen.

‘Impostor’ is based on a 1953 short story of the same name. It was co-produced by Gary Sinise and director Gary Fleder, whose other films include ‘Kiss the Girls’ and ‘Things to do in Denver when you’re Dead’. It’s a typical Philip K Dick theme.

I managed to guess exactly where the film was going almost from the moment when Olham is first arrested by Hathaway and accused of being a replicant. To all intents and purposes, from that point onwards it is nothing more than an extended chase sequence that lasts the best part of 90 minutes. The film is formulaic and clichéd in the extreme, but as it progressed I actually found myself rather enjoying it, if perhaps not enough to imagine ever needing to watch it again.

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Gary Sinise, but I had no problem with his performance here. I do like Vincent D’Onofrio and I thought his performance did help the film quite a lot. Madeleine Stowe’s performance was strangely uninvolved and uninvolving, but that might have been intentional. The cast also includes Mekhi Phifer, who played Dr Gregory Pratt is ‘ER’ during seasons eight to fifteen, and Gary Dourdan, who plays Warrick Brown in ‘CSI’.

‘Impostor’ had a production budget variously estimated to have been anywhere between $30-$40 million, which was clearly a waste of money since the film is shot in annoying permanent semi-darkness. It grossed a little over $8 million at the box office worldwide, making it a fairly major commercial bomb. There are no reviews collected at Rotten Tomatoes.

Review posted 7 April 2009


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