It is widely known, and has been frequently documented, that middle America is rife with white supremacists, as well as with intricate and fairly secretive organisations, designed from the ground up to spread misinformation, fear, and, most importantly, hatred. From the KKK to modern day neo-nazism, it’s an ever growing problem that seems to be as elusive as it is dangerous.
Imperium happens in post 9/11 America, when an FBI operation is underway to infiltrate and investigate the possible use of radioactive material by one of these extremist groups to build a dirty bomb. At the forefront of this effort are undercover agent Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe, still trying too hard to leave his boy wizard days behind), and his boss Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette).
Nate is tasked with befriending some truly dangerous and nasty individuals, by starting a new life in order to mix in the ranks of several different agglomerations of white supremacists. From changing his clothes, his way of talking, getting tattooed and getting the signature buzz cut, he dives deep into what is, essentially, hell on earth. The deeper he goes, the more he begins to understand the true objectives of these hatred-infused groups, and the harder it becomes to put a stop to their threats.
If only the proceedings were as interesting as the setup. What follows becomes a run of the mill thriller, similar to so many films about undercover policemen, that you can tell what’s going to happen at each turn of the movie. This takes any sort of tension away, and as much as we want Nate to succeed in understanding the evildoers plight and stopping whatever their plans may be, the movie moves at a very slow pace and eventually amounts to little more than a film that seems like it was made for TV (fittingly, it was released online at the same time as in theaters). As much as it gives some insight into worrying aspects of our current world, getting the audience to understand we still live in a world with copious amounts of hatred, it just feels like this is a story that would be better told on an in-depth documentary instead of a feature drama. No matter how hard director Daniel Ragussis tries, aided by the competent performances of the cast, the movie just never catches flight.
One of the marketing materials seen in London for the film states that Imperium is “American History X meets The Departed”. A truly unfortunate quote, as Imperium doesn’t get even close to the intrigue of the former, or the relevance of the latter.
Imperium was released in UK theatres on 23rd September, and is also available online at We Are Colony – https://www.wearecolony.com/imperium/