Think of the biggest lie you’ve ever told. Where did it sit on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the most elaborate)? OK, now double that score. Then triple it. Then multiply it by the number of times Sean Bean has died on screen. That’s where The Imposter would fit on that scale.
Sometimes a story comes along that is so bizarre and so unbelievable that it has to be true, and this is certainly one of those times. Through a series of interviews and reconstruction we are told the story of how Frenchman Frédéric Bourdin managed to convince a Texas family he was their son Nicholas who had been missing for three years. That’s not even the craziest part. He managed to do so despite having different colour hair and eyes and a French accent.
Just take a second to think about that. If someone had come up with that idea for a feature film, it would be dismissed as ridiculous; there’s no way anyone would believe that. Yet it happened. For real. He hoodwinked the authorities and Nicholas’ family, spinning lies about being kidnapped and abused that are so absurd you almost forgive everyone for thinking non-one would be crazy enough to make it all up.
Throughout the film, you constantly question whether any of this can really be true and are appalled that anyone would believe any of it. However, at the same time you’re almost impressed by Bourdin’s audacity to even attempt such a lie and applaud his commitment to pulling it off. His interviews are astounding and his calmness and lack of remorse somewhat chilling. This is juxtaposed with the equally unbelievable instant acceptance of the story by Nicholas’ family.
You question everything, from all sides. Why would someone do this? How did the authorities not pick it up? Did Nicholas’ parents really believe this was their son or did they just want him back so much that they went along with it? Just when you think you might be starting to get your head around it, you’re then thrown a complete curveball which makes you re-question pretty much everything you’ve already questioned. It is a truly compelling story but one that does have some pretty big holes. Obviously, it can’t explain everything, but even with a story so unbelievable there are some things that just don’t stack up, which can be a little frustrating.
It’s also interesting that much of the story is told from Bourdin’s point of view. Can his account really be trusted or is he manipulating us from the start just like he has done to everybody else? This review is full of questions, but that’s exactly the kind of response The Imposter elicits. You’re left with far more questions than answers, which may annoy some, but ensures that the story will certainly stay with you for quite some time.