Impostor (December 20/01)
The history behind Impostor is perhaps more compelling than the film itself. It originally started out as one-third of an anthology called Alien Love Triangle, and ran around 40-minutes. But, for reasons that are still unclear, the project was scrapped - after two of the segments had already been filmed. Purportedly, executives at Dimension Films viewed both shorts and decided to expand Impostor, leaving the other (which starred Kenneth Branagh and Heather Graham) dead in the water.
Gary Sinise stars as Spencer Olham, a 2079-based governmental scientist. Through voice-over, we learn that Earth has been at war with a race of deadly aliens for years prior. Olham is on the brink of inventing a device that will offer humanity a real chance at fighting back, when he's accused of being a replica sent by the aliens to blow up a prominent chancellor. Unfortunately for Spencer, there's no real proof that he is (or isn't, for that matter), so he's forced to take matters into his own hands. Running from the law (most notably in the guise of a determined cop, played by Vincent D'Onofrio), Olham hooks up with a grungy vagrant named Cale (Mekhi Phifer) and together, they work to discover the truth.
Impostor is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, the noted writer whose work inspired the classic sci-fi movies Blade Runner and Total Recall. As with those films, Impostor presents a future that isn't quite ideal, though there are a number of entirely plausible quirks spread throughout (such as the concept of "simcodes" - a device implanted at birth that tracks the movements of every citizen, allowing them access to various facilities and even the ability to purchase products without opening a wallet). The concepts are intriguing, but it's the execution that sinks Impostor. While the upper-class areas of this world are sleek and shiny, the rest of this world features the same grimy, dirty looking atmosphere we've seen in countless other futuristic movies. From Blade Runner to Demolition Man, this is a look that's become tired and outdated - not to mention just plain unpleasant to look at.
But besides the unfortunate set design, Impostor just feels like a film that's been needlessly expanded. Much of the story consists of Olham running from his various pursuers, dodging bullets and futuristic death rays. But unlike something like The Fugitive, we're never really given a reason to care whether or not Olham evades his would-be captors. The air of mystery regarding whether or not this even is Spencer Olham pervades the entire film, making it impossible to really care whether or not he is caught.
Despite the utter lack of science fiction flicks in this day and age, Impostor is not the movie that's going to re-ignite this dying genre.