STARRING: Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Tony Shalhoub, Mekhi Phifer

2002, 96 Minutes, Directed by: Gary Fleder

Description: Based on a short story by sci-fi master Philip K. Dick. Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) is a weapons designer suspected of being an alien robot with an assassin's agenda. The year is 2079; Earth is at war with an alien race called the Centauri, and its dome-sealed cities are intensely monitored by the Earth Security Agency. A high-tech chase ensues between Olham and his ESA pursuer (Vincent D'Onofrio), testing the bond of trust between Olham and his physician wife (Madeleine Stowe).

Impostor is the fourth Hollywood flick to be based on Philip K. Dick material, in this case a short story of his written in the early 1950s. In case you didn't know this, the movie's opening scrawl informs you of this. This is not a good sign, since the movie underestimates your intelligence by assuming that you wouldn't know that beforehand. To be fair, I suppose one can argue that at least the movie does assume that one can read.) The other movies were Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990) and the little seen Screamers (1996).

All of the above movies, with the exception of Blade Runner (which were loosely based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) were based on short stories by the legendary sci-fi writer who unfortunately died before Blade Runner's release. Impostor is no exception and it shows: much of the movie's mid-section consists of superfluous padding, mostly the heroes getting chased around. These action scenes are visual gibberish and devoid of any suspense.

The original story cleverly dealt with Dick's obsession of what is human and real, and what isn't. A man is one day accused of not being who he thinks he is. He is a human bomb instead sent by aliens during an intergalactic war to infiltrate Earth defenses. The "real" him has been killed and replaced by a precise replica. The problem is that the new replica doesn't know this, and is convinced that he is real. Is he, or isn't he, who he thinks he is? Unfortunately whereas the dilemma in the short story may have been real and sustained, here audiences sees the "surprise twist ending" all the way from one of Jupiter's moons.

"The hand-held camerawork will have you throwing up in your popcorn!"

All of this is made much worse by how director Gary Fleder (of Kiss the Girls "fame") who thinks that he is still at film school and wants to prove that he knows how to edit a movie. Most of today's action movies are visual gibberish, with scenes that wouldn't look out of place in a music video for MTV, but lacks any context. Audiences simply cannot follow what exactly is happening onscreen and looses all interest. (Rent Tomb Raider and Raiders of the Lost Ark one day and compare them to see what I mean. Or rather, don't rent Tomb Raider if you know what's good for you.) Nowadays action movies have lots of action, but very little suspense.

Unfortunately Fleder not merely directs the action sequences in this manner, but the entire movie. "Look!" I can hear him exclaim. "I have discovered an editing suite - and I know how it works!" Amateur night at the movies indeed. Halfway through the movie I was feeling nauseous, wondering whether it was something I ate. It was only then that I realized that it was the movie. An average static shot in Impostor lasts four seconds. I know, I started timing them when I grew bored with the story. If it takes Fleder longer than four seconds before he cuts to the next scene, then you can be sure that he will swirl the camera about. All this onscreen movement was making me seasick!

If Blair Witch Project's hand-held camera work made you feel sick, then you're definitely advised to steer clear of Impostor. This one will have you throwing up in your popcorn. To be fair, friends of mine who saw the movie said that I exaggerate that the editing didn't bother them at all. Maybe I sat too close to the cinema screen. If you watch this one day on video it probably shouldn't be all that bad. But the frenetic editing still can't disguise that if one expects a good action movie based on a Philip K. Dick story one must instead check out Minority Report.

Take my word however: one day someone will show director Fleder Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky's last film, the 1986 The Sacrifice. It has an opening shot of approximately ten minutes in which Tarkovsky neither swings nor moves the camera about and our attention is held by great dialogue and excellent acting. It will simply blow Fleder's cortex - who could have thought! - and he'd have to be hospitalised, sparing us the fate of any further "Directed by Gary Fleder" flicks . . .



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