"Without a doubt this film is one of the most gripping and mesmerising pieces of filmmaking I've seen in a long time"
Without a doubt this film is one of the most gripping and mesmerising pieces of filmmaking I've seen in a long time, and what makes it even more chilling is it's a true story. It's a film that really pushes the envelope in terms of what a documentary is, blurring the lines between fiction and non-fiction in a beautifully woven narrative.
The story of The Imposter is based on real events that took place in the early 90's when a young boy called Nicholas went missing from his home town of San Antonio, Texas. Three years later, local police receive information that a boy who matches Nicholas's description has been located in Spain and is being looked after in a care home after allegedly escaping from a sex ring operation. Soon the boy thought to be Nicholas is returned to his family who can't quite believe they found him again after all these years.
Now I don't want to ruin too much, however it's fairly obvious that based on the title this young man is not Nicholas and this is where things really start to get interesting because for all intents and purposes, he is. Or to be more precise he has given himself a make-over in order to look as much like this boy as possible, he gives himself the same tattoo's, he dyes his hair, even his 'sister' who came to pick him up from Spain is 100% convinced it's her brother yet bizarrely and against all odds his sister takes him home, happy in the knowledge that she has indeed found her brother.
As the film starts to unravel, mysteries surrounding the disappearance of the real Nicholas start to emerge, and the film does a complete 180 on itself, and this is what I found particularly engrossing about the film. At the beginning you feel heartbroken by what this family has endured, surely they are the victims of this story, even when this imposter turns up claiming to be Nicholas they're fooled by this stranger and take him in. The whole sequence when the imposter realises Nicholas's sister is on her way to collect him is both terrifying and heart pounding.
Then halfway through the narrative, it flips on its head and soon this stranger claiming to be their son becomes the victim, here is a man born with no identity, who we soon learn has been drifting from one care home to the next adopting various identities of missing youths.
Interviews with him are incredibly candid and honest, as he reveals shocking details about how he managed to pull off such a crazy stunt. To then be taken in by a family who are adamant he belongs to them despite all the glaring evidence in front of them, the most pertinent of them all being he looks absolutely nothing like Nicholas. Suddenly the family become the sinister ones who seem to have a separate agenda.
The story twists and turns, as we learn more about this imposter and more about the family, both parties becoming increasingly shrouded in mystery.
As I mentioned at the start, the film pushes the genre of documentary into new territories. On one hand it's a traditional documentary with interviews with the real people involved, a mix of found footage, but on the flip side we have this almost noir-ish fiction film that parallels the real life narrative, almost like a crime watch re-enactment except wonderfully cinematic and this really helps drive the film along and it gives it pace and energy.
It's a very well edited piece of work as well, particularly the cuts between family members and this imposter, little things like when Nicholas's mother talks about her son having a distinctive gap between his front teeth when he smiled, as she says this we cut to the imposter smiling at the camera to reveal a gap in his teeth, like it was almost too easy for him.
The Imposter is better than any thriller that Hollywood could produce, because it's real, it's true and that makes it far scarier than anything made up. The climax of the story will leave you in stunned silence, it's a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll. As an audience we've become accustomed to happy endings in the movies and I think part of this film's intrigue is due to the fact it doesn't answer the questions you want answered, it doesn't leave you completely satisfied.