Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Daniel Radcliffe plays a young, idealistic FBI agent sent to infiltrate a white supremacist gang.

2 out of 4 stars

Title
Imperium
Written by
Michael German and Daniel Ragussis
Directed by
Daniel Ragussis
Starring
Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette
Genre
Drama
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English
Year
2016

As a drama about white supremacists, Imperium begins provocatively by flashing a quote on a black screen: "Words build bridges into unexplored regions." Then, a beat later, the speaker is identified: Adolf Hitler.

Can words and images lead an audience, not to sympathize, but to understand the root of evil in Hitler's nasty little descendants? Well, potentially a film should be up to the task but in this limp debut feature from director and writer Daniel Ragussis, the characters' motivations are never complex enough nor their actions dramatic enough for the minor insights gleaned to be worth the major pain of two hours in their company.

At least the casting is amusing: Daniel Radcliffe plays Nate Foster, a young, idealistic FBI agent in Washington, D.C., who agrees to infiltrate a skinhead gang with terrorist ambitions in an attempt to trace some stolen explosives. So, Harry Potter has grown up and gone Muggle but he still has a talent for looking anxious, swallowing hard and furrowing his brow when confronted with the real world's many Voldemorts.

Story continues below advertisement

Seriously, Radcliffe may never escape the aura of his most famous role but he does create a nice little geek here with a plausible American accent. His diminutive stance and smart persona bring a bit of counterintuitive sensitivity to the macho world of the thriller – if you are willing to believe that his new comrades don't tumble to Nate when he reveals a fondness for Brahms.

In another bit of sideways casting, he is unleashed by a strong female boss: the ever-reliable Toni Collette plays an FBI desk officer willing to buck the anti-Islamist obsession of her masters to pursue homegrown race warriors. Her character's perpetual gum-chewing becomes repetitive, but the relaxed and intuitive veteran investigator who she creates, friendly if not actually motherly towards the young Nate, gives the cop shop some much needed variety.

What is lacking here is much depth in Nate's encounter with white supremacist theories. He is shown sighing mightily as he tries to read Mein Kampf or a Klan tract in his grim new apartment or looking darkly saddened at a cross burning, but there is never any sense that the investigator might suffer an identity crisis as he tries to bond with these thugs. Instead, he rapidly outgrows the skinheads, teams up with some more disciplined neo-Nazis who seem more likely suspects in the theft and meets a pleasant suburban racist puzzlingly willing to entertain all this riffraff at a backyard barbecue.

Their motivations are cursorily observed: one is a teenager who was bullied as a child; others are predictably strutting tough guys; the suburbanite (Sam Trammell) is the kind of familiar figure who has read too much Ayn Rand but the depths of his paranoid sense of superiority are never plumbed. Indeed, the only source of tension here is the possibility of Nate's exposure but as the baddies get nicer – or at least quieter – the plot slackens and Ragussis plods his way through a transparent three-act structure towards a less-than-thrilling denouement.

In short, his film asks that an audience listen to a fair amount of ugly racism without offering much enlightenment or even entertainment in exchange. Words may build bridges but people have to cross them: Imperium remains safely outside the unexplored region.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies