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The Imposter (Bart Layton | UK | 95 min.)
Sustained by its weird-but-true hooks, The Imposter suggests a compelling marriage of The Tillman Story with Man on Wire (and was produced by the same people). Director Bart Layton's biggest coup involves a dominant interview with an outgoing Spanish man who remains unnamed for most of the movie. His espionage-like method of impersonating the missing boy, Nicholas Barclay, puts the movie firmly inside the anonymous man's head. Guided by a cosmic score and slickly constructed reenactments, "The Imposter" inhabits the con artist's perspective as he infiltrates a small Texas town, makes the local news and even manages to work his way back to high school.
The ruse begins with a phone call to Barclay's sister made by the con artist at the beginning of the movie. He preys on her fears with methodological precision -- or, in his own words, "I washed her brain." The Impostor does that to its audience as well, drawing us into each twist in Fake Barclay's experiences while making it clear, by virtue of the movie's existence, that at some point someone must catch on. But even when they do, for each answered question, another begs for further inquiry.
The supporting characters flesh out this requirement. A local investigator named Charlie Parker, whose tactics seem lifted straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel, grows increasingly suspicious of Barclay's return, begging a naive FBI agent to reopen the case. When the man's identity finally becomes clear, the magnitude of his scheme begs for further analysis, but Layton instead takes the plot in a surprising new direction that redefines everything that came before. You won't see it coming -- even when you think you have it all figured out.
- Eric Kohn