Film Review: The Imposter

The ImposterThink 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.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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43 thoughts on “Film Review: The Imposter

  1. Nice review. I really enjoyed this film but it’s seriously uncomfortable viewing. Bourdin is compulsive to watch but is a pretty despicable person at the same time. It did also seem that the bigger story is what really happened Nicholas… all very murky and mysterious. But it’s a real unique story – I’d recommend people to see it too.

    • Thanks man. Bourdin is a crazy character but he was one I couldn’t help but feel drawn to. Perhaps others were too! But you’re right about the bigger story, I would genuinely like to know what happened to Nicholas.

  2. keith7198 says:

    Been aiming to check this out but for some reason other movies always manage to edge ahead of it. Gotta, gotta, gotta see it!

  3. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. I didn’t mind this movie because it always kept me interested with it’s mystery, I was just annoyed that by the end, they made it seem like they glamorized this dude’s wrong-doings. Like, I guess, maybe he found something more than he expected, but he still went around acting like somebody else.

    • Thanks Dan. Yeah I totally get what you mean about it glamorising what he did, there is definitely an element in that. I’d like to think that most people watching are intelligent enough (unlike the family in the film) to recognise that what he’s doing is wrong regardless of how the film paints it.

  4. Tyson Carter says:

    Good stuff mate. I reviewed this a while ago, and exchanged a message or two with Bourdin. Fascinating but frightening story 🙂

  5. Nice write up. I’m intrigued and want to check it out.

  6. Frame Rates says:

    Great review as always. I loved this movie so much. It was one of the most nail-biting stories I’ve seen in recent times. One thing I found problematic was the very end shot. I thought it cheapened what was a fantastic movie, and it almost felt slapped on to give it an ambiguity which just detracted from the story!

  7. filmhipster says:

    I need to get on this one, sounds amazing Chris!

  8. claratsi says:

    watched this sometime ago, I was on a blogging hiatus so never reviewed but I now wish I did because it was immense. totally bizarre and unbelievable as you say. The family were just a messed up as he was.

    • They really were! I blamed them almost as much as him. I mean, they can’t have really believed it, surely? I know they were in some pretty backwards part of America, but they can’t have been that stupid, could they?!

      • claratsi says:

        I did too, totally complicit, it’s almost a green light for people like him. It must have been one the most backward parts of America, very strange indeed. Bet he couldn’t believe his luck!

  9. It’s amazing the things some people will convince themselves are true no matter how incredible they are. I think this film does a good job at pointing that out, but I think they tried to hard to make it mysterious and suspenseful.

  10. Nice one, TM. This is one of my favorite documentaries — the perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction.

  11. ruth says:

    Great review Chris! I love that intro you did, especially this bit “…multiply it by the number of times Sean Bean has died on screen” Ahahaha, he dies a lot in movies doesn’t he, poor Sean!!

    This looks good, I was intrigued when I saw the trailer but then I sort of forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder to give this a look!

    • Thanks Ruth! Haha, yeah Sean gets a bit of a hard time, he’s always getting himself killed 😀

      This is a really interesting watch. It’s one of the craziest stories I’ve ever heard. I still don’t know how much is true or if part of it is made up but it’s absorbing viewing nonetheless.

  12. “multiply it by the number of times Sean Bean has died on screen” LOL!

    Great review, Chris. Very intrigued about this one.

  13. Great review! I also reviewed it and I loved this documentary, definitely the best of the year.

  14. thedavidryan says:

    Been dying to watch this for some time. I know it was on YouTube a while ago so I will need to check it out. It sounds as crazy as a box of cats.

  15. You’re right to say in your review that this doc elicits many questions…and all the way till the very end!! I was left so frustrated with the ending hoping there would be some resolution :\ Great review tho and this was a great watch

  16. table9mutant says:

    Great review. I so need to see this – it’s been on my “must see” list for ages. Sounds so intriguing.

  17. Nostra says:

    So unbelievable that this actually happened. Will never look at ears the same 😉

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