HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:75
I’ve really been watching Daniel Radcliffe in the last several years and have been rather impressed with his body of work. The boy who was forever typecast as Harry Potter has really branched out into a wide variety of films that stretch his acting capabilities. Even though they may not garner his widespread popularity in the next summer blockbuster. I’ve seen him sprout horns and wield powers beyond imagination to get to the bottom of a rape/murder. I’ve seen him be the sweet boy next door trying to get a beautiful girl, and we’ve seen him be a flatulent corpse in the eye of a crazed man. Now he’s got his sights set on a more traditional role of being an FBI undercover operative in a case that is meant to track down some missing nuclear material amidst a white supremacist organization. “Imperium” sometimes delves into the realm of pure fantasy with the level of skill that nerdy Agent Foster (Radcliffe) seems to employ, but it’s a fun watch that keeps the intensity high and my intellect engaged the whole time.
Agent Nate Foster opens up the film by engaging in a sting operation that pretty much borders on the realm of police entrapment, but in the process his skills at interrogating a suspect with deft ease catches the eye of agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) who works “downstairs” in a more secretive division. She sees how easily he handles the jihadist that was the target of their sting and wants to rope him in on a bigger project. The sting got the little guy and some of the bigger ones, but it didn’t get the actual nuclear material that they were hoping to acquire. Angela has a good idea that it’s in the hands of a white supremacist group that is home grown and a part of the Aryan brotherhood, but she needs someone to go on the inside and confirm that. Her statement of “all you need is in this book” as she slaps down a copy of “How to make friends and influence people” seems a bit goofy, but it works in the concept of the film. Undercover work is about influencing people and making them see your point of view. Sympathizing and empathizing with them creates a symbiotic bond that makes it easy to get in and out of the operation.
Soon Nate is in deep with the Aryan brotherhood. As he snoops around the young agent realizes that things aren’t as easy as he hoped it would be. All of his encounters and leads turn out to be dead ends. Most of these people are big on talk and little on action (as is the case with most of these organizations), but that nuclear material is STILL out there and he is certain that he’s close. As each lead turns up dead, Nate’s frustration turns into something more lucrative when one of the people he least expected may be the key in blowing this case wide open.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=83521[/img]“Imperium” makes the interesting case of trying to show that not everyone within the white supremacist organization is a tattoo covered freak screaming “white power!” at the top of their lungs and holding a swastika in their hand. Instead it inserts a sympathetic creation of some of them who engage in intellectualism and are thinkers. Even if their intellectualism and thinking is misguided by poor propaganda and misdirected hate. It’s an effort not to make us think that there are good people within that way of thinking, but rather a way to realize that we’re all human beings. Even if we’re so twisted in our philosophy that our outward exterior is radically different. Agent Nate Foster is the perfect man to infiltrate the organization and track down the nuclear arms due to the fact that he is intellectual and extremely knowledgeable about the same things that his enemies hold dear. It’s something that really is part of the “preposterous” portion of the film as there is no real evidence that the fascist Aryan’s really ARE more than jack booted thugs (Nate is stuck inside a group of punks and stereotypical white Nazi’s at the beginning. Something that is directly an antithesis of his skillset).
While the movie is a bit ridiculous in the way it puffs up Nate’s skills at adapting, and the knowledge of military aspects he brings to the table, it is a fun watch and has some interesting dialog engagements that had me chewing on over the sincerity of the script for quite some time. Not every aspect of the movie flows properly, but I looked up from my viewing to realize that I only had 10 minutes left. Something that is pretty rare when you start checking your watch more and more often with these sorts of films.
Rated R for language throughout
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=83529[/img]“Imperium” enjoys a stable, if not rather decidedly run of the mill video encode by Lionsgate. There is nothing technically flawed with the presentation on the encoding side, but really a stylistic choice in the filming by all accounts. I can’t exactly pinpoint the cameras used, but from what sources I can pull up it seems to be a digital shoot using some form of the Arri Alexa cameras, and has been given a sort of bland and gritty look. Colors tend to lean more towards yellows and earthy tones, with fairly natural skin tones all around a little bit of fake grain or noise thrown in to give it that sort of “documentary” look at times. Fine detail is usually quite nice, unless we’re in a really dim lit scene. There the crush comes in pretty heavily and the yellow and brown color grading gives the black levels some mild to midrange washing out of the darker moments. There is no major artifacting or banding to speak of, and the film keeps a very consistent look to it with solid contrast levels and an overall very pleasing, if not mildly soft, picture.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=83537[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is more than impressive and capable of pulling off the job asked of it with apparent ease. “Imperium” isn’t a film filled with lots of action and shootouts, but there is some serious heft in the low end with deep bass wallops that come out of nowhere to give the movie a more intense and somber feeling. Surrounds are used solidly enough with the sounds of the outdoor locations with birds chirping and other ambient noises, as well as a few times where a physical scuffle occurs and something is knocked over. This is primarily a drama from the get go, so the dialog is still the most important piece of the puzzle and that goes off without a hitch. Vocals are crisp and clean, and the front soundstage shows some good imaging when needed. A mildly complex track, it is more than the sum of its parts and comes across as a much bigger experience than it really is.
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Daniel Ragussis and Writer Michael German
• Living Undercover - Featurette
• Making Imperium
• Cast and Crew Interviews
“Imperium” sometimes borders on the preposterous and indulges a bit in good old fashioned over dramatization and over amplifying an undercover operative’s skill set, but it is an engaging watch from beginning to end. The more intellectual and emotional connection that Nate shares with the white supremacist group just goes to show how easily it is to connect with these people and how thin the line is between sympathy and conspiracy. While it may not blow the doors off of the summer blockbusters, “Imperium” is another reason why I have been more and more attracted to Daniel Radcliffe’s more recent body of work and enjoying his work post “Harry Potter” in the last several years. Audio and video are impressive and the extras are pretty standard for a modern home video release. Definitely an enjoyable and worthwhile watch in my humble opinion.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts
Directed by: Daniel Ragussis
Written by: Daniel Ragussis, Michael German
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 109 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 1st, 2016
Buy Imperium On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Watch
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