like the adjustment bureau, total recall, paycheck, next, and screamers, impostor (2002) is also based on a philip k dick short story. though unlike the adjustment bureau, which creates and expands on its source material, impostor does the opposite, a negative example of how to adapt a short story into a full length feature.
it’s 2079 and earth is at war with an alien race. we know they mean business cause we see some city-destroying footages from disney’s armageddon, who at the time (2002), also owns miramax/dimension, the studio behind impostor. we also know that it’s science fiction not only because it involves dick, alien, the future, but also the fact that earth is protected by a dome above it, and the fact that the dome, actually works. it’s pretty far-fetched to think that the best defense we can come up with is a
shield dome above us to protect ourselves, right? the only way it could be more implausible is if they named it after some pop culture scifi epic dreamt up and loved by teenage boys.
that prologue is done via voice over by weapon developer spencer olham played by gary sinise. hmm, i wonder why they show olham with his wife maya (madeleine stowe) not only at home but also in flashbacks. on his way to work with his colleague tony shalhoub, ol’ spencer is taken away by vincent d’onofrio, accused of being an alien robot containing a bomb inside his body intending on destroying earth (or a political assassination). of course, ol’ spence escapes, otherwise there would be no movie. like a futuristic dr. richard kimble (rick deckard perhaps?), he’s on the run from the law while seeking truth and justice at the same time. along the way he encounters underground disenfranchised rebels who are, of course, not caucasians. there goes mekhi phifer.
it’s no surprise that impostor was originally intended as a 40-minute short, one of three short films in a feature length anthology. it was pretty late in the game when the studio decided to expand it into a feature on its own and it shows. the original philip k dick short story is only 15-pages long. it’s more focused and concise focusing solely on sinise character. it’s an enjoyable short story with a touch of hitchcockian macabre humor. there’s no mekhi phifer.
directed by gary fleder, who made his name with the entertaining things to do in denver when you’re dead, the 40-minute short was written by scott rosenberg, who also wrote things to do in denver, beautiful girls, con air, and gone in 60 seconds 2000. the feature length version is also credited to caroline case, ehren kruger, and david twohy. the weak second act, the parts that feel most like a low budget, direct-to-video sequences, are added to pad out its running time. though the ending is changed somewhat from the original story, it is nevertheless the best part of the movie, that is, if you can tolerate the previous hour.
while sinise is solid as the lead, stowe, shalhoub, and phifer don’t get enough screentime to shine. d’onofrio joyfully hams it up as the villain, though not as weird as you expect him to be. the version i watched is the longest version, the director’s cut. it seems more accessible than the theatrical cut, which is ten minutes shorter. having read the original philip k dick story, it’s probably best to go with the 40-minute version, which is available as a special feature on the dvd.
p.s. i’m not blaming the movie but it’s interesting that most actors in the film became tv stars. sinise is currently on c.s.i.: ny, d’onofrio stars in law and order: criminal intent, stowe is currently on abc’s revenge, tony shalhoub plays tv’s monk, phifer starred in e.r., lie to me, and torchwood. and in a bit part, there’s gary dourdan, who played warrick brown on c.s.i.
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