Stars:   Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mekhi Phifer
Director:   Gary Fleder
Writers:   Caroline Case, Ehren Kruger, David Twohy. Based on the short story “The Impostor” by Philip K. Dick

Dated and full of plot holes, Imposter is hopelessly flawed.

At 2079, the story is dated in the too near future to be believable, for starters. Earth has been engaged in a horrendous ten-year long war against alien invaders; massive electromagnetic domes shield our cities; security vehicles flit the sky like giant birds; humans are implanted with spinal tracking devices, but poor people unlucky enough to have had their communities bombed to smithereens by the aliens are left to rot outside the domes and succumb to dreaded diseases. Everything is dark and miserable except for the comfy home of top weapons’ developer Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) and his beloved wife Dr. Maya Olham (Madeleine Stowe). There they have nice furnishings along with nifty voice controlled devices that make televisions, stereos and showers go on and off automatically.

Maya spends her days aiding troops injured in the war and Spencer questions the rationale of his work. Then one day, Earth Security Agency chief, Major Hathaway (Vincent D’Onofrio) charges that Spencer is really an alien replicant programmed to destroy the head of the world government. The replicant supposedly has all the memories of the original, has emotions, sweats, feels pain and is completely clueless as to his alleged mission. And despite all the great human technology that exists, the agency is going to use a roto-rooter torture device to drill into Spencer’s chest while he’s fully conscious, rip out his heart and perhaps expose a bomb in order to keep the horrible from happening. Then there’s the heat sensor used to locate him when he’s on the run. It’s supposedly so powerful it starts to drain the energy from the city dome. Well, perhaps in 1953, when the short story was written, it might have seemed plausible that they’d be that powerful. But since we already have such infrared sensors now that are being used by police helicopters to spot perpetrators at night, the concept just doesn’t play well here. It’s things like these that sabotage the film and there’s lots of them!

The rest of the movie follows Hathaway’s pursuit of his prey as Spencer tries to find a way to prove his innocence. And, of course, he may or may not be the real Spencer Olham. The action sequences are so frantically cut that you hardly know what’s happening until it’s over. Sinise and Stowe seem fully committed to their roles. D’Onofrio has little more to do than grit his teeth and sneer. Look for Lindsey Crouse and Clarence Williams III in small roles as government officials. Mekhi Phifer does a decent job as Cale, the outsider who becomes an unwilling alliance of Spencer’s.

Lotta says Imposter might have worked if the writers had taken larger liberties with their source material and paid more attention to plot points.

Reviewed: 1/6/01