It is the year 2079 and the Earth is faced with the threat of attack from alien forces known as the Centauri. Huge electromagnetic domes cover the sky, shielding the planet from air raids. Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) is the head of the Special Weapons Research project, who have just made an important breakthrough, which could greatly benefit humanity in the war. Olham is happily married and his wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe) is a doctor in the intensive care unit of the local hospital.
He turns up to work as normal but things take a dramatic turn when he is seized by Major Hathaway (Vincent D’Onofrio) of the Enemy Infiltration division. Hathaway has received intelligence that a genetic cyborg evolved from synthetic DNA has been sent to assassinate the Chancellor during the meeting Olham has with her later that day. He believes this cyborg (which was developed to look exactly like Olham) has killed Olham, pilfered his memories and emotions and taken on his identity. The curious thing is that the cyborg will have no idea that it isn’t Olham. It will think and feel the same as he did, and truly believe it is Spencer Olham, as that was the sole purpose it was created. And then, once the time comes, the bomb inside it will detonate, wiping out its target and causing a great deal of devastation.
With Olham captured and detained, Hathaway’s team plan to remove the bomb. Not by carrying out a delicate surgical procedure, instead they use some sort of medieval rotating knife device that slices right through into the chest. Olham quickly makes his escape and with help from the renegade Cale (Mekhi Phifer), plans to journey to the hospital where his wife works, to carry out a full body scan. If he can compare the results with one he had done before, he should be able to prove his humanity and innocence.
This film has an interesting premise and a lot of potential, mainly achieved by taking inspiration from a Philip K. Dick short story. However, it doesn’t turn out to be the powerful, intelligent sci-fi movie it could have been. With the idea stretched out into a full-length movie, there is inevitably a lot of padding. As a result, the excitement and tension which developed well during the first act starts to sag until we get to the ending. It’s strength lies in the fact that no one knows the truth of whether Olham is human or cyborg; not the audience, not Olham, his wife or Hathaway. So great power lies in the reveal that takes place in the final stages of the film.
Impostor is a fairly enjoyable sci-fi film, but it’s strong idea deserved more action set-pieces, more emotion and turmoil. The film should have been darker in terms of the story and the questions raised, rather than the lighting and set design. It would have been really interesting if the filmmakers had drawn the audience in more, forcing them to identify with the protagonist and ask what they would do if faced with the terrifying possibility that everything you think you know about yourself may not be real.