Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the true-to-life thrills of “Deepwater Horizon,” Tim Burton’s X-Men-esque “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” the thriller “Imperium” and the ripped-from-the-headlines documentary “The Lovers and the Despot.”
It can take some doing, but once you get past the idea of Harry Potter as a white supremacist “Imperium” is an enjoyable potboiler.
Daniel Radcliffe plays FBI agent Nate Foster, a principled young man with an uncanny resemblance to Harry Potter, whose empathy and idealism attract the attention of his FBI superior Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette). She recruits him to
shave his hair down to the stubble and go deep undercover to take down a radical white nationalist group planning to build a dirty bomb. Inexperienced but focussed, he pilots his way through the ranks of racists, including the Ayran Brotherhood, right wing radio host Dallas Wolf (Tracy Letts) and wealthy extremist Gerry Conway (“True Blood’s” Sam Trammell). Fully embedded, he finds the tricky balance between maintaining his personal beliefs without blowing his cover.
Based on real events “Imperium” is a standard undercover drama with a few standout performances. Radcliffe is very good at portraying Nate’s calm-under-pressure demeanour, while imparting a sense of urgency into the character. On the other end of the scale is Trammell who quietly plays his racist as an everyday family man who has allowed hate to infect his soul. As a provocative radio host Tracy Letts hands in another interesting performance, one that suggests that for some, money is more important than principles, no matter how skewed they may be.
“Imperium” contains some provocative and offensive images—the mere sight of Harry Potter shouting racial epithets will be enough to upset many a viewer—but the underlying story of racial intolerance doesn’t add much to the conversation. Instead of exploring the psychopathology of hatred and anti-Semitism in the United States it is content to play as a thriller and little else. As such it’s good, if not quite edge-of-your-seat stuff, but it could have been much more.