2016. Directed by Daniel Ragussis.
Daniel Radcliffe gives the performance of his career in Daniel Ragussis' dangerously relevant film, Imperium.
Nate Foster is a brilliant outcast in the FBI. He's a loner with a good sense of humor and strong sense of self. His outsider personality traits lead him to being recruited to infiltrate an extremely violent group of white supremacists who may be planning a terrorist attack.
One of the first things that jumps out is Ragussis' script. It doesn't plumb any new territory in the undercover genre, but instead chooses the journey itself as the focus. This is not a melodrama about the police officer gaining empathy for this quarry, these are, for the most ignorant young men being manipulated by true evil. When the hero comes face to face with this evil in a suburb near you is when Imperium gets its legs. It's a card board cut out story, complete with cop making silly criminal choices to maintain cover cliche's, but what's underneath the veneer is what makes it work. The masterminds planning racial genocide walk in plain sight among the sheep.
Radcliffe's performance is desperate, sentimental, and ferocious. The realization that Foster could have been one of these neo nazis had his life taken one different turn weighs on the character's conscious and Radcliffe is able to simulate this divide with ease. His disgust for his surroundings and his arms length pity is palpable as Radcliffe goes from gritty survivalist locale to head banger bar to neighborhood cook out. Foster is just bad ass enough and I think that is why it's such a great performance. This is a real human with vulnerabilities who will fight back when provoked. If he were a superhero, perfect at his job, this movie would fail. It's simply amazing to watch the chameleon-like talent of Daniel Radcliffe and I sincerely hope this role gets him some awards attention.
Toni Colette and Sam Trammel round out the cast. Colette gives one of her better performances as the FBI mentor who helps Radcliffe just enough to accomplish her mission at the cost of his personal safety. Trammel gives a chilling performance as the leader of the Nazi group. Trammel's dedication to the hatred in his character's heart was awesome, but not for its fury. It's Trammel's unflinching dedication that is hair raising. His character is patient, calm, articulated, and a true believer, making him the most dangerous person in the room at all times. It's his cool eyes and inviting grin that seal the deal and you'll be thinking about him long after the film concludes.
Bobby Bukowski's camera is humble and unobtrusive. This a story about characters and they are always in focus, with Bukowski capturing every drop of blood and line of ink possible throughout. Amy Andrews does authentic work in the costume department, choosing both iconic and original compositions for the Nazi characters.
Available now for digital rental, Imperium is not a ground breaking story nor it is a life changing one. However, it's worth the price of admission for Daniel Radcliffe's commendable work. It's a performance like this that reminds us about the men and women risking not only their physical lives, but the purity of their souls for our well being.