From Donny Brasco to Point Break, there is something totally intoxicating about undercover cop movies. Director Daniel Ragussis’s feature debut centres around such activity. The plot: young and lonely FBI desk worker Nate Foster is asked to go undercover to infiltrate several neo-nazi organisations to determine and confirm their potential terrorist activities. Imperium shares many tense tropes we’ve come to expect from the genre and is a fine way to spend a rainy evening, especially now that autumn’s setting in. As he penetrates deeper into the inner circles and mysterious leaders of the white supremacy movement, Nate begins to probe into the criminal activity the bureau suspect is being plotted. Along the way he must think on his feet and defuse a multiple of high-risk situations that demonstrate that he’s starting to feel out of his depth. His hunger to crack the case conflicts with the barbaric things he hears and must encourage. As the situation begins to heat up, Nate wrestles with his struggle to catch the culprits, maintain their trust, do the right thing and change the racist attitudes around him. Sporting a striking skinhead look, Daniel Radcliffe is Nate – as convincing here as he’s ever been. Since departing from the iconic role of Harry Potter, Radcliffe has demonstrated time and time again that he is a diverse and physical actor. I’ve always admired his determination and here he truly impresses.
We witness Radcliffe loose himself in Nate, putting on his fascist disguise – a captivating and layered performance. Toni Collette can do no wrong in my eyes and here she compliments Radcliffe well as his mentor and leader whom he reports back to throughout his investigation. Collette’s character convinces Radcliffe’s to take up the investigation and in doing so somewhat manipulates him, whilst at all times doing her best to keep him protected. Together, the two are an energetic pairing. Imperium itself is a perfectly average movie. The narrative does what we expect although it’s perhaps not as tense and twisted as hoped. It is Radcliffe who elevates the whole affair, in a performance stronger than the film itself. Long gone are the memories of his work in The Woman in Black and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (that awkward in between stage where he was no longer an adorable child actor but when he was yet to grasp the skills to carry an adult performance). We are entering a new era of Radcliffe and it’s rather thrilling. Imperium struggles with its pacing, it leaps into the plot without giving enough context for the audience and then struggles to rise and fall in the right places, not to mention its bizarre and abrupt ending. All in all, Imperium is a forgettable film with a memorable turn from its lead actor.
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