List Film

Imperium (2 stars)

Daniel Radcliffe poses as a white supremacist in Daniel Ragussis's by the numbers thriller


FBI analyst Nate Foster is frustrated by the limitations of his desk job, and dismayed by the agency's habit of framing young, impressionable Muslims in its fight against Islamic fundamentalism. So when he's given the opportunity to go undercover and take on a different threat – white supremacy – he grabs it.

He does have one misgiving though: 'I can't defend myself.' When Nate is played by Daniel Radcliffe, we easily believe it – he hardly looks the part. And that goes to the heart of what's wrong with Imperium: implausibility. Racial hatred and home-grown terrorism are red-hot themes, but this drama doesn't deliver on the potential.

He might appear nerdy, but Nate has people skills and ambitions to get into the field. Agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) also sees an outsider, who could empathise with and so infiltrate the supremacists she believes are preparing a dirty bomb.

And so Nate reads the fascist literature, shaves his head, turns up his jean bottoms and sets out, in the guise of a racist former marine, to meet some Virginian neo-Nazis. Some embrace him, others mistrust him, he has close shaves while trying to root out the loudmouths from the terrorists.

It's very by the numbers, and all the while we keep thinking, 'But Daniel is so small. He looks so nice. ' There's a heavy irony here: the actor is playing an undercover agent trying to prove to monsters that he is one of them; while the character succeeds, the performer fails to convince. To be fair, so does everyone around him. Even Collette's hard-boiled, gum-chewing turn feels as though it's been lifted from a template.

Debut director Daniel Ragussis penned the script from a story by former FBI agent Michael German, so we assume a degree of authentic detail. A shame, then, that the whole feels so terribly rote.

Selected release from Fri 23 Sep.


  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 106 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Daniel Ragussis
  • Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts
  • UK release: 23 September 2016

FBI agent Nate Foster (Radcliffe) goes undercover as a racist skinhead, to infiltrate white power groups. The themes are red-hot but the handling of them is by-the-numbers; even Collette's hard-boiled, gum-chewing FBI supervisor feels stale, and Radcliffe is so small and nice-looking that there are serious plausibility…


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