Highly underrated, Impostor is a fun little science fiction action movie based on a short story written by Philip K. Dick. It has a certain B-movie charm although it certainly doesn’t open that way. What we’ll see first are some pretty good special effects that stood the test of time. We find ourselves in the year 2079 with the Earth at war with aliens who are now using replicants to wreak havoc. And this leads us to the hero of our story, scientist Spencer Olham. If the word replicant sounds a bit familiar, you’re right, it is the same word we hear in Blade Runner, another K. Dick adaptation.
Total Recall, Screamers, Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly are also all based on his either short stories or novels. And the first two are some of my favorite science fiction movies. However, you could argue that only A Scanner Darkly tries to stay as close to K. Dick’s vision as possible. And the same can be said about the movie we’re going to be talking about today. It hits all the themes he loves so much: paranoia, government overreach, drugs, and militarization. That last topic was the subject of another science fiction classic Starship Troopers based on the works of another great writer, Robert A. Heinlein.
Oddly enough, the production team used some of the scenes from that movie here to keep the cost down. And the same goes for the helmets the ESA soldiers wear. Featuring a short running time (90 minutes), fast pacing, and a story that will keep guessing until the satisfying finale, Impostor is an easy watch. We start running almost immediately and don’t run out of steam at all. Gary Sinise was surprisingly good in a lead role although I envisioned someone else instead of him. I don’t know, Gary seems too ordinary but I guess that was the point. On the other hand, Vincent D’Onofrio was excellent as the tough military operative and Madeleine Stowe gave another good performance.
After three years of hard work, Spencer Olham has finally finished his big project. He’s building high-energy weapons that will help the Earth fight off the alien invaders once and for all. Even the Chancellor of the entire Earth is on her way to visit him. However, just a few hours before that meeting is scheduled to take place, a zesty security officer arrests Olham. He wakes up strapped to a chair in an underground facility facing accusations that he’s working for the aliens. And they don’t want to do any tests or hear his cries of innocence. So, he will have to get creative if he wants to stay alive.
Impostor puts us in the shoes of the protagonist, Spencer Olham, as we try and guess what’s exactly going on. We get excellent worldbuilding, a bit of action, and thought-provoking questions about reality and morality. However, the movie doesn’t dwell on them or gets bogged down in pretentious meditations on these concepts. It keeps moving in the best tradition of B science fiction movies. We also get a couple of really suspenseful scenes with the one where Spencer is in the scanner topping them all off.
At its core, this is a man on a run movie, a staple of the nineties and eighties cinema. And yet, it will surprise you with its honest and realistic vision of the future. The Zoners, for example, are an interesting bunch, left to fend for themselves outside the protection of the domes. Finally, if you’re looking for movies like Impostor, check out Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow and Johnny Mnemonic.
Director: Gary Fleder
Writers: Philip K. Dick, Scott Rosenberg, Caroline Case
Cast: Gary Sinise, Vincent D’Onofrio, Madeleine Stowe, Mekhi Phifer, Tony Shalhoub, Gary Dourdan
Fun Facts: Originally, Imposter was supposed to be a short 40-minute segment in anthology science fiction movie along with Mimic.