Impostor

Working in the space where paranoid schizophrenia meets metaphysical inquiry, Philip K. Dick spent the better part of the Cold War era using science fiction to rework a few key themes, most frequently the semi-permeable membranes separating reality from delusion and humanity from its machines. With its virtually limitless potential for piling one illusion atop another, cinema should be a natural home for Dick. The best translations have attempted to take full advantage of this compatibility, whether they're adapted from Dick's writings (Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall) or just inspired by them (Open Your Eyes, its American remake Vanilla Sky, and much of David Cronenberg's work). But the new Impostor runs screaming in the opposite direction. Directed by Gary Fleder (Kiss The Girls, Don't Say A Word), it essentially uses the setup of an early Dick short story as a bookend to one long, dull chase scene. Set less than a century in the future, when civilization has been forced into domed cities as the result of an ongoing war with Alpha Centauri, Impostor gets whatever mileage it can by explicitly probing the unspoken central dilemma of Blade Runner. On the eve of testing a weapon that could, like the atomic bomb, turn the tide of the war while escalating the potential for human destruction, scientist Gary Sinise is placed under arrest by a government investigator (Vincent D'Onofrio) and accused of being an android sent to destroy a powerful politician. Convinced that D'Onofrio has it all wrong, Sinise runs away. And runs, and runs, and runs, through one dimly lit set after another. Originally intended as one-third of the now-defunct Miramax anthology film The Light Years Trilogy, the long-shelved Impostor shows clearly where the padding was added to stretch it to feature length. Though early scenes exhibit some interesting on-a-budget production design, once Sinise begins his journey to a predictably unpredictable ending, the film gets lost in a future that looks dismally cheap. The main effect of domed life, it would seem, is to make cities look like not-so-elaborate Hollywood sets and to cast everything in the blue-filtered cinematography favored by action films of the late 1990s. The suspense of Dick's stories takes place in the head, not on the hoof, and here the only sense of disorientation comes from Fleder's restless cutting. The end result is both puzzling and exhausting, but in all the wrong ways.

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