‘The Imposter’ Movie Review – Wait, This Really Happened?
Documentaries are based on fact. Duh…right? Even when you know up front it’s a true story, The Imposter is the type of movie that will honestly make you question how stupid some people can be. However, the story gets flipped over a bit by the end, making you actually understand it. I compliment the filmmakers for making a theatrically released film on something that you could likely find on a bunch of networks. Ultimately, it was a lot better than those, too.
What’s so unbelievable about the story? Take a 13-year old Texas boy (blonde hair, blue eyes) and make him disappear. Now, meet Frédéric Bourdin, a 23-year French guy, with apparently nothing to do. For (still) unknown reasons, Bourdin decided to become the missing Texas boy – named Nicholas Barclay (who would’ve been 16 at the time). Even though he was mysteriously in Spain and talked with an accent, the new Barclay was flown back home to reunite with his family.
Assuming Barclay’s identity, the story somehow didn’t end when he stepped off the plane into his family’s arms. Not only did the family buy that their son was back (albeit much different looking), but many authorities did, too. Of course, there is plenty of story left to be seen. I, obviously, suggest you pick up here and watch the documented account. Sure, you could easily find the full story on Wikipedia, but it’s more suspenseful in film form.
Either way, you’re going to seriously question the IQ of a few characters. Not only is Bourdin idiotically stupid, but the family, police, and welfare employees are just as much to blame…at first.
Nearly 3/4 of the way through the movie, the oddly suspenseful tale takes a bit of an unexpected turn, resolving their stupidity a bit. I won’t go into specifics, but it spawned an a-ha moment that still sticks with me almost two months later. I originally saw this movie at the 38th Seattle International Film Festival back in mid-May. Today, it’s still a story I simultaneously question and understand. Not a whole lot of movies can do this.
As for style, I already hinted at the suspense. I was struck with how well the main characters acted because I kind of assumed they were dramatized. Since there are a lot of dramatized scenes (something that really bugs me in most documentaries), I figured it was the same for the “actors.” However, the real people are actually playing themselves…including Bourdin.
Since the story lends itself to a what’s-gonna-happen-next tone, the runtime is a breeze. There’s so much fascinating material, it’s not a movie that drags. The end does feel a little anticlimactic. In fact, the overdone end was the only part that felt like an A&E special (funny enough, A&E IndieFilms is part of the production credits). I still felt like the dramatic irony, suspense, humor, and visual style made the film fly by, though.
The Imposter isn’t the easiest movie to swallow. You want to sigh and laugh at everyone on screen because there is no way a 23-year accented man with different eye and hair color can fool everyone into believing he’s a Texas boy who has been missing for 3 years. There’s simply no way.
Wrong…and The Imposter will justify just about everyone’s actions.