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The Imposter (2012)
It’s 1994: a 13-year-old boy disappears from his home in San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later, he is found alive, thousands of miles away, in Spain. Disoriented and quivering with fear, he divulges his shocking story of kidnap and torture. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not what it seems. Sure, he has the same tattoos, but he looks decidedly different, and he now speaks with a strange accent. Why doesn't the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It's only when an investigator starts asking questions that this astounding true story takes an even stranger turn.
You are watching: The Imposter
Also starring Frédéric Bourdin
Also starring Adam O'Brian
Also starring Anna Ruben
A bizarre and captivating story is ultimately wasted in an attempt to exude style and idiosyncrasy.---The story behind "The Imposter" is almost impossible to believe - yet it is true. It's the perfect material for the making of a documentary film, yet the filmmakers seem to prioritize stylistic devices and dramatic suspense over the story itself. Documentary cinema is a unique form wherein journalism meets visual storytelling, and yet "The Imposter" seems to act in conflict with every aspect that is unique to the form, despite being in possession of the perfect source material. Interviews with the subjects are spliced together with dramatic re-enactments that verge on mimicking an actual drama film - one would think that, in doing so, a successful merging of drama and real life would be accomplished. Instead, the film teeters between an ostentatious documentary and a drama composed of nothing but exposition-oriented dialogue. In an attempt to imbue the documentary with further dramatic aspects, a musical score is ever-present - yet this only serves to hinder the film. The score is unremarkable in every aspect, and serves to hold the viewer by the hand - instructing them on what emotions to feel, rather than add any sort of sensual dimension to the experience. This, combined with the film's devotion to overt stylistic devices that seek to weld the non-fiction portions with the dramatic, results in an overall gimmicky film that ultimately interferes with the very story that has served as its bedrock. Throughout the film, the aspects unique to documentary cinema are often identifiable by the regard in which they are blatantly disregarded - it's not that they are ignored, but specifically refuted. During the film's final act, the story takes a completely unexpected turn, and the film is doused in suspense. Suddenly, everything we've been led to believe about the situation being reported appears uncertain, and the viewer is hooked. This is a strong moment in the film, and while it does serve to lift the quality at this point, it also highlights where the film has gone so wrong - the strongest moment in the film is as a direct result of events within the chosen story line, and not as a result of forged drama or artistic flourish. While documentary films and artistic style are not mutually exclusive - in fact, certain films demonstrate that they can work remarkably well together - the style should serve to heighten the material being worked with. In "The Imposter('s)" case, the added showmanship and dramatic techniques only serve to impose, as though a documentary and a drama film collided with one another and were forced upwards, lifting from the chaos and rubble a rough and jagged product, as tectonic plates impacting to form a mountain.
This is not a documentary.---This film is exploitative dramatization. I need to write four more lines for this to be submitted. Documentary films should present the facts. People should be allowed to decide for themselves. This film twists and turns a very sad story into something completely detached from reality.
Unethical portrayal of a family that suffered enormously---I found the film dramatic, surprising, clever in its cinematography, thought provoking. So why did I rate it a "1"? I believe the film took unethical advantage of a family that had already suffered enormously from the disappearance of their boy, and portrayed them as exceedingly gullible, stupid and much worse, as possibly covering up their own heinous involvement, highlighting such possibility as real, even though hugely unlikely, but obviously creating effective tension and drama. That's great for a fictional film, beyond disturbing for a documentary.
Based on reviews, I thought this would be intriguing. I was wrong.---All I can say is, "wow." Some reviewers described the tale as "fascinating." The only thing fascinating about it is how gullible the people involved are.I mean the story is totally outrageous: A blond, blue-eyed American teenager from Texas goes missing. Three years later, the child's family receives a call that he's been discovered in Spain. Except when they're "reunited" with their child, he's suddenly in his early-20s, with dark hair and dark eyes, has no recollection of his past, and speaks with a thick French accent. But this apparently doesn't raise their suspicions. Basically, I spent the entire time wondering how people could be so dense. I kept watching, thinking that there must be some explanation or crazy plot twist. But sadly there wasn't. I also cringe at the thought of this being aired to international audiences and confirming stereotypes about Americans' lack of sophistication and naivete.This might make a viable 20-minute story for Dateline or Inside Edition, but it really doesn't merit 90 minutes. The whole story is just too . . . stupid?
Tweedledum is not Tweedledee---I read a few reviews which admonished me not to discover too much about this "mysterious and compelling" story beforehand so I didn't.I really enjoy good documentary films so I watched it with an open mind and was ready to be compelled and mystified but I wasn't in the least.I found it all too obvious. A dark-haired French-speaking young man pretends to be a missing blond-haired English-speaking American boy and is apparently welcomed by his clearly dysfunctional family with open arms.So what's going to happen? He is discovered to be a fake(duh)and the family fall under suspicion and we eventually discover that one of them was a junkie and killed himself shortly after the boy went missing.Not much mystery or compulsion there. We are told of the mesmerising abilities and evil nature of the bogus heir apparent but he is no more than a failed chancer,more intelligent than he wants to appear but not as bright as he thinks he is.I've met plenty of those.The only surprise I found was how unbelievably thick and incompetent the relevant American officials were.It was like watching a thriller where you work out the entire plot in the first five minutes and then sit there bored stiff as it unfolds exactly thus. I'm sorry to review this film so negatively when many people obviously enjoyed it but if you are looking for mystery and intellectual challenges,you won't find them here in my opinion. A well-crafted but spuriously sensational film.
Solid, atmospheric, slightly stretched out telling of a surprising, twisty story---The Imposter (2012)A creatively made documentary about a French man who was able to take on the identity of someone else against all the odds. This isn't a wild tale like the man who was doctor and airplane pilot and so on, but rather just a young man posing as a kid so he could get into a children's home and be taken care of.Or that was step one. When he was about to be discovered he then pulls one charade after another and ends up in Texas. The gullibility of the family who takes him in is part of the talking head zaniness of it all. Or so that's step two. Or four. The movie takes a whole series of twists because of how the story is told to us. (There is a little feeling of being manipulated and tricked which doesn't feel quite fair, actually, but this does keep you interested.) By the end you know exactly what happened (with one major detail up in the air) and there is a satisfying, wow, what a tale feeling.The filming is really elegant, with really brilliant editing. I think it could have been more compact, and more impactful, but it never really slows down. The cast of characters gradually grows as the investigation into the facts changes, too, which is interesting, leading to the best character of all (beyond the French leading man), an old gumshoe driving his Cadillac and getting to the bottom of at least some of the facts the old fashioned way.You might critique this kind of story by simply saying it would make an amazing amazing segment on 60 Minutes. But that would be 20 fabulous minutes. Instead it's stretched and stretched into five times that (five!) and all the extra details and atmospheric filler makes it very long. Boring? No, not really, but when you're done you'll know it could have been more by being less.
First bland, then unsupportable---In 1994, a 13-year-old boy disappears from Texas; three years later, he apparently shows up in Spain, disoriented and uncommunicative. The boy's family quickly retrieves him, but it's soon obvious that something is awry. Is it possible this is not their little boy after all? The Imposter's title gives you a strong indication to the answer to that question, but there's much more to the story.This is a documentary, so let us begin with some cold facts. The story is propelled by interviews given by the real-life people at the center of the drama. Right away, we are introduced to one Frederic Bourdin, a 23-year-old Frenchman. His mission: find and steal the identity of a teenager. It turns out to be a little harder than one might imagine, particularly when the boy chosen by Bourdin turns out to be a cause celebre, and thus Bourdin is not able to simply escape the clutches of the Spanish police but instead must continue his ruse as he's taken to the United States.Along the way, he asks himself why the boy's family is so eager to accept him as young Nicholas. Bourdin has beard stubble and dark hair, whereas teenage Nicholas was blonde and a bit too young to shave. But accept them they do. Is this simply a case where the family just wanted so desperately to believe that their boy was back that they overlooked obvious discrepancies? Or did they have something else to hide?In addition to Bourdin himself, interviews with his older sister, his mother, his brother in law, and his brother - along with law-enforcement officials both local and national (including Interpol) - are interspersed throughout the movie. It is only from these subjective interviews that the audience can make any assumptions or deductions, as director Bart Layton doesn't push the plot in any particular direction. Well, not at first. For a good part of the movie, we are led to conclude two things: that Bourdin is certainly not Nicholas and that Nicholas' family is surely aware of this.And then, from almost nowhere, an allegation arises that cannot be revealed here. Does it seem plausible? Yes. Is it supported in the movie as a valid theory? Not entirely. It is at this point where the director introduces the allegations behind which he also throws his own weight, a bit of a departure from the plot to that point. Layton seems to believe this allegation has at least a grain of truth - he is not the only one in the movie to think so, although there appears to be no direct evidence to support it.And that's a shame. Up until then, the movie seems almost amiable: the lovable rogue sneaking into the U.S. by pretending to be someone much younger, fooling officials but not the family, which doesn't care anyway. After the tone shifts (abruptly), the movie itself changes - now it's much more of a mystery, and unfortunately it's one without a satisfying resolution.If this were a work of fiction, the movie could have been effective if it was able to delve into the minds and actions of the Gibson family. Because the movie is nonfiction, throwing in plot devices that may or may not be factual would have been unethical and embarrassing. But it would have been far more entertaining than The Imposter, which promises a lot but cannot deliver on the tone set by its creepy, unsettling premise.
Cinematic, intriguing and unsettling even if the events don't give the highs the director has the potential to deliver.---While it's fascinating to have a documentary in such detail on both sides of a criminal act, it's most interesting aspect is watching the development of a mad man unfold in just a single shot spread over the whole film. At first, Frederic Bourdin appears charming and approachable as he explains his old thought processes with a smile. Over the film's progression, in which we're treated to Man On Wire-esque re-enactments, it's clear he actually has no remorse and his pride is unsettling, especially as this case is just one of the many. Although the film does underwhelm in the end slightly, that can't be helped for it's a documentary, the best aspect is the slick photography in both the interviews and re-enactments making it look incredibly cinematic. The Imposter is a really well constructed film that makes its unbelievable story work and keeps a consistent level of intrigue and anxiety throughout, even if in an ideal world, it should be building up to a finer payoff.8/10
True or False?---If every detail of this didn't actually happen, it would be a fictional best-seller. Nicholas Barclay, a 13-year-old blonde-haired, blue-eyed Texan boy went missing in 1994. Three years later, on a rainy night in Spain, a person made a call to the police, claiming to be that boy. That person was in fact mentally afflicted con artist Frederic Bourdin, an Algerian orphan, who had a history of impersonating missing and fictional children. What an intriguing story, I hear you say. There's no question that it is. It might have been even more intriguing if the US media hadn't presaged this documentary, and therefore limited its potential impact, by covering the story in minute detail at the time of its unearthing, only 15 years ago. Filmmaker Bart Layton chooses the annoying reconstruction technique, more at home in TV than in cinema; and yet he had the material for a heart-pounding thriller. Frederic Bourdin is allowed too much screen time, which he uses to gloat about how he ingeniously fooled the authorities and Nicholas's family into believing the implausible reason for his radical physical transformation, memory loss and new French accent. This over-familiarity with the villain and his modus operandi helps sanitise him and makes him appear less dangerous. 'The Imposter' was not made purely for entertainment purposes. The documentary asks whether Bourdin's actions were acceptable; after all, he was an orphan whom the authorities didn't care much for. This was his way to be 'reborn' and to be loved by a family who Bourdin still maintains never truly believed he was their son, but nonetheless accepted him because he was willing to be accepted. The twist in the tale came when Bourdin made a full confession to dogged Private Investigator, Charlie Parker (who looks so much like a film PI). Bourdin claimed that the family murdered Nicholas, and embraced him as a way of closing the case. I admit that a cold chill ran down my spine every time Nicholas's mother is interviewed. The black t-shirt she wears with a blank expression, denying her guilt with verbose but carefully delivered sentences, does cause the question to hang. With all their power and their reputation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation fell for a trickster. It beggars belief. FBI agent Nancy Fisher talks at some length to defend her actions. Despite reservations about his true identity, Frederic's correct identification of some family photos (coincidentally showed to him by Nicholas's sister a few days prior) was apparently enough for them to send him to the States. And yet we're reminded of how rare it is for missing people to reappear (they're usually assumed dead). The family may have had their own reasons to be taken in by Bourdin, but the authorities - they couldn't have truly believed Bourdin was Nicholas, could they? Is it not just conceivable that this 'reunion' was allowed to happen because it allowed America to once again be the world's greatest country? Who knows? What we do know is that Nicholas Barclay is still missing, and Bourdin now lives happily in France with a wife and three kids.
Truth is always stranger than fiction and this is one strange story!---'THE IMPOSTER': Three Stars (Out of Five)Documentary detailing the 1997 impersonation case where a French 23-year-old con artist pretended to be a missing 16-year-old boy and began living with the kid's family (unbeknownst to them amazingly). The film uses interviews with those involved as well as several reenactments (using actors) to tell it's story. It was directed by Bart Layton, who's previous experience is solely in TV documentaries (and it shows). The film has a strong TV crime show feel to it but it's still interesting and somewhat involving. I'm not big fan of acted out reenactments (in documentaries like this) but it does help the film better tell it's story. Not a great documentary (and it doesn't quite live up to it's critical acclaim hype) but it's still an interesting one. The film tells the story of Frederic Bourdin, a French 23-year-old con artist who had a long record of impersonating children. In this case he convinced a Texas family that he was their 16-year-old son (who had been missing for three years) from a missing children's office in Spain. The family buys his story (as does almost everyone else), even after meeting him, despite the fact that he looks nothing like the blond haired, blue eyed kid and speaks with a French accent. He tells authorities that he had been kidnapped by U.S. military and transported to Spain for sexual abuse. A private investigator (Charles Parker) and an FBI agent (Nancy Fisher) begin suspecting something isn't right from the get-go even though everyone else is duped. Suspicions also arise as to why the family was so eager to believe this stranger was undoubtedly their child. The movie is very eerie, disturbing and bizarrely interesting but that's more so just because of the fascinating story than the filmmakers' storytelling methods. I didn't really care for the crime TV format and found it a little emotionally void and uncinematic. Still the events depicted make for a good movie. It's the kind of story that no one would buy if it were known to be fiction. Viewers would totally have a problem with the believability of the film if they thought it came from someone's imagination but because it's based on facts they'll eat it up. Truth is always stranger than fiction and this is one strange story.Watch our movie review show 'MOVIE TALK' at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8-fGGKVWPc