Inspired by real events. When extremists steal devastatingly toxic materials in order to build a dirty bomb, FBI Agent Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter franchise), with help from Agent Zamparo (Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense), goes undercover in order to infiltrate their shadowy underworld. But can Nate find the group's leader — and the bomb — before his cover is blown?
You've got to admire Daniel Radcliffe's attempt to distance himself from the boy wizard Harry Potter. Surely his best movie he did this year was the incomparable 'Swiss Army Man,' where he played a farting corpse in a wacky buddy love story with Paul Dano (seriously, I loved that movie). 'Imperium' doesn't provide the same sort of awe as 'Swiss Army Man' did, but it continues to signal the kind of roles Radcliffe wants to take on post-Potter.
In 'Imperium' Radcliffe plays FBI analyst Nate Foster. A clichéd nerdy character who sits in his cubicle crunching intelligence that comes in and sending it out to those in the field. That is until agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) comes to him with an improbable assignment.
She knows that a local neo-Nazi group is planning a massive terrorist attack, but she doesn't know how or where. She enlists Foster to go undercover. Foster, eager to show his higher-ups that he has what it takes to be a field agent volunteers for the assignment.
It's improbable because Foster has absolutely no experience in undercover work and is given little to no training when Zamparo activates him. It's silly, but we go with it, because I suppose we wouldn't have a movie otherwise.
'Imperium' is a by-the-numbers police procedural thriller that is rather light on the thrills. It has all the hallmarks of an undercover cop story. Those moments where he has to think fast on his feet to blend, other moments where his cover is almost blown and then it isn't, and still those scenes where one character figures out everything at the exact right time that they needed to figure it all out.
Radcliffe's performance is fine. He lays on the nerdiness of Nate pretty thick at the start and then starts to settle into the role the more entrenched he gets in the neo-Nazi group.
'Imperium' isn't as explosive or entertaining as say 'Green Room,' which was another neo-Nazi thriller released this year. Yes, I understand they have different motives, but the same subject really.
The biggest problem with 'Imperium' is that it feels so familiar. It almost feels like a couple episodes of '24' where we know it'll all work out in the end.
Perhaps I would've gravitated more toward Radcliffe's performance if the movie wasn't so mired in been-there-done-that storytelling. This is just like every other undercover cop movie you've ever seen, but it's neither interesting or compelling. It plods along from plot point to plot point, slowly revealing a picture that we already guess an act ago. It telegraphs it's ending so badly that it's hard not to chuckle when the final reveal is revealed. Though, instead of snickers it expects unearned gasps.
The best thing about 'Imperium' is seeing Chris Sullivan, who plays happy and affable Toby in NBC's hit drama 'This is Us' take on a role where he's a hardcore white supremacist.
Again, Radcliffe is decent, but if you want a truly out-of-this-world performance from him check out 'Swiss Army Man.' That's the 2016 Radcliffe performance to remember.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a single-disc release that comes with a 50GB Blu-ray. A code for a Digital Copy is provided along with a slipcover for the case.
The 1080p Lionsgate transfer, which is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, is strong with few surprises. The image is always clear and clean, which is what you'd expect from a recently filmed and released movie.
I was impressed by how resolute the black areas and shadows were. Even though it was filmed digitally flatness of black areas is not seen. Crushing isn't really a problem either. Colors are muted due to the intentional color filters that seem to downplay the color palette. Clarity is spot-on. There are a couple soft shots here and there. One scene of a rocking white supremacist concert is especially murky.
There's nothing here that will blow you away in regards to demo quality. The whole presentation has that digital sheen that makes it look a little less cinematic than one might hope. In the end it provides a solid video presentation that doesn't have any glaring anomalies to report.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix provides a few wow moments, but mostly does what it's supposed to.
The mix provides clean dialogue, even during moments where whispering or growling takes place. Seriously, these neo-Nazi types growl a lot. There are some heavy LFE-soaked scenes, be it gunplay, explosions, or the tense score. There is some deep and satisfying bass here even if it is brief and infrequent.
Surround sound is mostly given over to birds and echoes of the wilderness that one of the neo-Nazi groups have turned into an encampment. Some other scenes involve standard city sound or chatter during parties. There's some good ambience during the concert too.
Audio Commentary – An audio commentary is provided by director Daniel Ragussis and writer Michael German.
Making 'Imperium' (HD, 18 min.) – Interviews and other promotional fluff. It's a longer piece, but the same EPK stuff that is always included.
Living Undercover (HD, 4 min.) – A cut up version of the 18-minute long EPK featurette already included.
Cast/Crew Interviews (HD, 104 min.) – A lengthy collection of interviews with cast and crew. They include a two-part TimesTalks interview with Radcliffe and Ragussis; another separate interview with Radcliffe; an interview with actor Sam Trammell (Gerry Conway); and an interview with German.
Trailer (HD, 2 min.) – The theatrical trailer is also included.
It's a competent thriller, but lacks much of a reason to care. Radcliffe is showing off his range, but the script boxes him into a color-by-numbers plot. The video and audio are strong. It's worth a look if you're interested.