IMPOSTOR - 2002
Eat hot gamma rays, foolish Centaurans!
Gary Fleder (KISS THE GIRLS) directed IMPOSTOR and the combined writing talents of Caroline Case, Ehren Kruger (SCREAM 3) and David Twohy (WARLOCK, PITCH
BLACK, BELOW) produced the screenplay.
The movie is based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick. Other movies based on Phillip K. Dick stories include MINORITY REPORT, BLADE RUNNER, and TOTAL RECALL.
The voice of Spence Olham (Gary Sinise: THE GREEN MILE) narrates us through an introduction to his future world, where Earth is at war with an alien race from Alpha Centauri. The
war has been going on for decades and Spence's father was an early casualty.
Now it's the year 2079 and Spence is an expert weapons designer, hoping
to produce an innovation that will finally end the war. The narration,
like almost always, is unnecessary. Show, don't tell.
Aside from having to live in a domed city (protection from Centauri "air raids" we are told) Spence has a pretty good life. His beautiful wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe: TWELVE MONKEYS) is director of the Veteran's Hospital; he's a respected scientist. He's doing all right.
Well, until he's accused of not being Spence Olham. His accuser, government agent
Major D.H. Hathaway (Vincent D'Onofrio: THE
THIRTEENTH FLOOR, MEN IN BLACK, THE CELL), arrests him because he believes an alien duplicate has replaced Spence. The Centauri are known to have the nanotechnology to
create robots that are such perfect duplicates even they don't know they're
not human. In fact the only way to tell who's human and who's not seems
to be to messily tear out the accused's heart. At the moment of death
the internal organs will try and rearrange themselves into a bomb (if the person was an alien robot). If that doesn't happen then you know they were innocent so you have to pay for their funeral. Hathaway
makes it clear that he's only been right about half the time but hasn't
lost any sleep over his mistakes. Definitely an "ends justify the means" kind of guy.
Hathaway's purely circumstantial evidence against Spence is based on a camping trip
Spence and his wife took the previous weekend. A Centauri ship is known
to have crashed in the area, starting a forest fire. Hathaway accuses
Spence of being a walking bomb whose mission is to assassinate the Chancellor
of Earth's government, who is due in the city in a few hours. Why they
don't call the Chancellor and ask her to change her itinerary is never
Just as Hathaway is about to administer the tear-out-the-heart test (very much like the if-she-floats-she's-guilty-but-if-she-drowns-she's-innocent test for witches) Spence makes a fairly miraculous escape. He insists
he's not an alien bomb-bot but since even if he was he wouldn't know it
people have a hard time believing him. Even his wife, when he manages to contact her, doesn't know what to think.
She's even more confused by the fact that during his escape Spence accidentally kills
their best friend Nelson (Tony Shaloub: MEN IN BLACK, THIRTEEN GHOSTS).
Can Spence prove he is who he says he is? Is he? Before we talk about that I think
it's time for a
This is a movie about a glittery high tech future and there's a lot of
cool tech toys displayed. That's why by comparison the ridiculously low-tech
method of telling human from robot by using a heart-ripper-outer machine
just seems stupid. He's a duplicate right down to his DNA? To every atom
in every DNA molecule? I don't think so. Nanotechnology (which
will absolutely change the world in the next 20 years or so) has
been picked up by lots of sci-fi screenwriters as a magical plot device
that they clearly don't understand. This is not how it works.
Continued at Science Moment/Impostor.
There are a few cool scenes here and there but there are too many missteps. Excellent
actor Tony Shaloub is completely wasted in what amounts to a cameo. Spence
gets help from people who live in a ghetto outside the dome (and
thus not protected from Centauri attacks), but why they live in
such a dangerous place is never explained. The ghetto inhabitants are
lead by Cale (Mekhi Phifer: I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU
DID LAST SUMMER), who reluctantly agrees to help Spense break back
into the protected part of the city in exchange for drugs. No, not those
kind; medicine to help the oppressed people who live in the cliché... I
mean, the ghetto.
Spence's wife is "anti-war" in spite of the fact that the Centauri would
clearly exterminate humanity if they could. Why this, why that, why the
other? Was this screenplay finished? Because it feels like a first draft.
I give IMPOSTOR two shriek girls.
copyright 2003 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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