The Imposter details the real-life events surrounding the Barclay family from San Antonio, Texas. In 1994, their 13-year-old son disappeared while walking home from playing basketball with friends. Left distraught by a complete lack of leads as to his whereabouts the family, after three years of searching, has all but given up hope. A phone call from a police officer in Spain would turn their lives upside down. A boy answering to his name and description has been found.
As the title suggests something is clearly amiss. It becomes apparent that a man by the name of Federic Boudin has assumed Nicholas’ identity in an attempt to escape his own life. What begins as a miraculous story of one family’s joy at having recovered their son soon turns into a twisted tale fronted by a master manipulator. The interview with Boudin that features throughout the film as he tells his version of events makes for uncomfortable viewing. His manic smiles are accompanied by a hugely inflated ego as he recounts his actions with a look of glee that makes the skin crawl.
The early scenes and interviews explore the motivations behind such a deception and the effects it has on the Barclay family. Although told in a compelling manner the film begins to drag slightly halfway through. There is almost too much detail owed to the initial events and at times it suffers from repetition. This soon changes however with the introduction of private investigator Charlie Parker, bringing to light new angles and shifting the focus of the story. From this point the film truly captures the viewer and dramatically skews what has gone before.
One of the most striking elements of The Imposter are the reenactment scenes. They are dark, stylised and reminiscent of film noir in their execution. Many documentaries overlook these scenes, simply recreating events in the most literal way. The Imposter takes a different tact and by focusing on the visual impact manages to add another layer of interest and suspense to the story being told. This feeling of watching a glossy thriller is carried throughout the film and can also be seen in the firm editing and gritty score.
The Imposter tells an intriguing and bizarre story that leaves the audience to decipher what is true or false for themselves. It doesn’t pretend to neatly conclude what is a hectic, messed-up chain of events. This adds a sense of realism to the piece which, combined with the dramatic storytelling capabilities of director Bart Layton, makes for a uniquely harrowing yet thoroughly entertaining experience.
In selected cinemas from 24 August 2012. Watch the trailer.