Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Impostor (2001)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I remember someone saying that Saturday Night Live skits tended not to make good movies.  The problem was that you were taking something that did well as a short skit and trying to stretch it out into a feature-length film.  Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World both did well.  Both even had sequels.  However, there were a lot of movies that didn’t fare so well with the critics.  Does anyone even remember It’s Pat: the Movie or Stuart Saves His Family?  (It’s Pat was one of the few movies I couldn’t watch all the way through.)

We tend to have a similar problem turning short stories into movies.  Philip K. Dick provided the source for this one.  There have been other movies made from his work, including two based on We‘ll Remember it for you Wholesale.  (They were both called Total Recall.)  It’s understandable, given these movies and others like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which became Blade Runner, that people would love to get the movie rights to his work.  Impostor doesn’t seem to fare as well as the other titles.

The movie is based on a short story of the same name.  In the movie, Gary Sinise plays Spencer Olham.  Olham is a scientist working on a bomb to help destroy an alien threat from Alpha Centauri.  The aliens have a pretty powerful weapon of their own. They can replicate a person, give the replicant the memories of the original and send them off with a bomb that doesn’t assemble until the replicant is close enough to the target.  Since the replicant thinks that they’re the original, it’s extremely difficult to detect them.  Olham is suspected of being just such a weapon.

He’s taken from work one day and is about to be killed by Hathaway, but Olham escapes.  With some help, Olham makes it back to the city to get a scan that could prove his innocence, but that doesn’t work.  So, he makes one last-ditch effort to prove he’s really who he says he is.  I’m not going to say what happens, as there’s no point in ruining the movie.

I will say that this would have worked much better as a short movie or as part of an anthology like The Outer Limits.  This is primarily about Olham trying to prove that he’s not a fake.  This can end one of two ways:  Either he’s revealed to be Olham or he’s revealed to be the fake.  You could explore the aspect of what makes a person.  Is it their memories?  Is it biology?  Hathaway even points out that the aliens can’t copy a soul.  As much as a fake might think that they’re real, they can never be the authentic item.

The movie touches on this only briefly.  Instead, we have Hathaway chasing Olham and Olham trying to throw a few curve balls, many of which are kind of weak.  Olham takes an implant that can be used to track him.  It’s been surgically removed to prevent scanners from reading him, but he’s not shown to be given a new one.  I’ll admit it’s possible that only important people, like government employees are given one.  However, the government can still use it to track Olham almost in real time.  He gives it to Hathaway, who eventually realizes that he’s only chasing himself.

Notice that I described the plot in one paragraph, and a short one at that.  There’s really not that much to the movie.  The concept of what’s real and a person’s identity and nature has been done before and has been done better.  I don’t recall this movie being released in theaters.  It came out a little over ten years ago, in 2001.  This was back when I was going to movies more regularly.  Maybe it just wasn’t shown in any major theaters.  Maybe it was just that forgettable.

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