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An esteemed scientist accused of being an alien spy becomes the subject of a nationwide manhunt and must prove his identity not only to the secret police, but also to himself.


The year is 2079 and we are told the earth has been at war with Alpha Centauri for more than a decade. The Earth Security Agency (a futuristic fusion of the EPA and the CIA) is convinced that revered scientist Spence Olham (Gary Sinise) was turned into some sort of assassination tool while incarcerated at a Centauri POW camp and that he is actually a robot programmed to kill Earth's chancellor. The ESA tracks down Olham and informs him that the Centauris have used advanced technology to implant an undetectable bomb inside him which is set to go off when he gets close to the high ranking official. Olham insists they are making a huge mistake and goes on the lam via the city's intricate ventilation system to prove he is not what they say...or is he? While the story sounds like Blade Runner meets Total Recall, it still has some original elements, including a surprise double-twist ending that may not please the crowd.


As the film's star, Gary Sinise does a convincing job at conveying his character's ambivalence. While he wants to prove his identity to the ESA, it's clear he is also trying to prove something to himself. While he is adamant about who and what he is, Sinise constantly imparts an element of uncertainty within his character. Vincent D'Onofrio is his arch nemesis Hathaway, the head of the ESA. Hathaway's character is not entirely bad, but you wouldn't guess it based on D'Onofrio's portrayal. He's a detached man of stone from start to finish. Madeleine Stowe has a rather small part as Olham's wife, but apart from the opening and closing sequences, they do not share any screen time together, which doesn't exactly help the viewers buy into their relationship. The love Olham's character verbally describes for his wife never shows on screen. But it is Tony Shalhoub and Mekhi Phifer as his two friends who churn out the best, albeit short, performances.


Gary Fleder's (Don't Say a Word) attempt at delivering Philip K. Dick's 1953 sci-fi story The Impostor to the big screen may have been too ambitious a project for the director to handle. The film opens up with a really cheesy love scene between Olham and his wife, bathed in a dark bluish light. This lighting effect is then used throughout the rest of the film and makes it difficult to see what's going on. Coupled with slow-motion strobe shots, the visuals come across as shoddy. While the story is interesting enough to keep viewers interested, there are elements that seem a little farfetched and unnecessary. For example, when the ESA needs to disarm the bombs nestled inside the chests of Centauri robots, they strap them on to a table kicking and screaming then use a giant drill to get the explosive out. It just seems a little masochistic, even if they are replicants.

Bottom Line

Even though the story for Impostor was written almost half a century ago, its thematic elements have almost become a sci-fi cliché. And while it's entertaining at the time, you probably won't remember too much of it the morning after.