In one of the first scenes of the second act of Imperium one of the foremost members of the white supremacy group that Daniel Radcliffe has infiltrated looks him up and down and notes he seems a little “Mature”. Which is arguably addressing the big elephant in the room when it comes to this movie. Daniel Radcliffe might resemble many things but a hardened menacing racist isn’t one of them. It’ll be easy to dismiss this as obvious miscasting on the part of the director. Really the acknowledgement of Radcliffe’s less than intimidating presences is one of this movie’s strength. Underlining how much of a fish out of water Radcliffe is and how your normal average every day forward thinking person would fall into the world of race elitism.
That’s the main idea behind Daniel Ragussis’s Imperium, unlike most movies that deal with the bleak and altogether disquieting world of Neo-Nazis. This movie doesn’t attempt to take us into the world of one of these members and attempt to explain what exactly compels men to enter that kind of life but instead it focuses on the insides of the Neo-Nazis from a straight-laced FBI agent.
Radcliffe plays Nate Foster a young promising FBI agent who’s been frustrated with the lack of responsibilities he’s been given. Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette), his superior, enlists his help after she suspects a small Neo-Nazis organisation of carrying out some kind of attack involving a dirty bomb. Feeling like this is his chance, Nate becomes her rat in the organisation.
To put it bluntly, if you’ve seen The Departed or Serpico or any other “Undercover” movie, you can see every twist coming from a mile off. It almost feels like an undercover movie checklist. The moment he worries that he’s in too deep? Check. The scene where he leaves incriminating evidence out in plain sight when the gang members turn up unannounced? Check. The scene where he accidentally runs into someone who recognises him? Check. A member he starts to bond with and therefore he feels guilty for his inevitable betrayal? Check. Given this comes out right after Bryan Cranston’s Infiltrator all these tropes feel somewhat tired. But Imperium is sill presented in a slick and interesting manner. Regardless of anything else, Radcliffe does a fine job with what he’s given. His American accent seems forced in places but he really does pull off convincingly being this ambitious young agent that might be out of her depth. When he’s around the Neo-Nazi group there’s always a slight hint of panic in his voice and just a generally uneasy demeanour that one might have when in the hive of a group of psychotic radicals which works perfectly for the type of performance that he’s going for. The script at times does him no favours, having him regurgitating obscure Nazi information.
The movie never really explores why these people believe the things that they do, and what drives them and it feels like a missed opportunity but on a whole this film is a decent entertaining thriller regardless of the political stuff.
Imperium is on general release now