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  Imperium I Was A Racist For The FBI
Year: 2016
Director: Daniel Ragussis
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Sam Trammell, Nestor Carbonell, Chris Sullivan, Seth Numrich, Pawel Szajda, Devin Druid, Burn Gorman, Adam Meier, Roger Yawson, Linc Hand, Vanessa Ore, Jasson Finney, David Aranovich
Genre: Drama, Thriller, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young FBI agent who does not feel as if he is reaching his full potential at work. Take his latest assignment, where he was part of a team arresting an Islamic terrorist who was a loner recruited by undercover men, unbeknownst to him, to stage an attack on Washington D.C. The second he made the move to detonate the dummy bomb the agents swooped, but later Nate starts to think the man has a point in the interrogation room that he was set up and despite his grudge against America he would not have been involved in the operation had he not been encouraged by the FBI. Just at the point Nate is becoming disillusioned, a superior, Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) has a proposition...

No matter what you may hear on the news or online, in the United States the average terrorist is far more likely to be a white male than he is any other race, which is what former agent Mike German pointed out when interviewed about the issue. It was his experience as an undercover man among white supremacists who were willing to use mass murder to start what they thought would be a race war that prompted him to highlight the growing numbers of that demographic who were being turned to neo-Nazi lifestyles and beliefs thanks to their disenfranchisement with the status quo which, in their perspective, had marginalised them. This was not a new development, but German and director Daniel Ragussis made this for a reason.

If you did not think the problem had been discussed enough, or if it had it had been dismissed as an exaggeration from scaremongering liberals, then you would probably welcome what had been drawn from German's cases therefore you would see a ring of truth about this fictionalisation of them. That said, you could still note a simplification of the accounts thanks to narrative films being a different beast from documentaries or factual books, so there were elements that came across as farfetched or not entirely convincing: Nate uses his own name when he goes undercover, for example, and it seems only he and Zamparo are investigating the dangerous group when in reality these potential criminals would have been on the Agency's radar and therefore taken more seriously.

Nestor Carbonell in particular, as the chief, was more like the stupid superior in an eighties action movie who stands against the mavericks who will get results even if they don't go by the book, it was that sort of shorthand that did the film few favours and offered ammunition to its critics. What was more important, and ignored by those who rejected it out of hand without approaching its arguments on its own level, was that the neo-Nazis depicted were not slack-jawed thugs, but genuine individuals who had failed to feel a connection with a positive community, be that a national or local one, and were caught up in a downward spiral of hatred of a perceived other who they would pin their blame on for everything they thought had gone wrong in their lives. And they were not a bunch of tattooed skinheads either.

Fair enough, some were, but German and Ragussis were careful to provide a context for what the fascists beliefs were couched in, and Sam Trammell was not playing your obvious racist, a family man who has reasoned his way through to these extreme right wing tenets with study and excusing and explaining away every rational point that would have exposed his beliefs as a sham. This was all very well, but there were points when you started to wonder whose side the film was on (to emphasise this insular world of whiteness there was barely a non-white face to be seen) until you acknowledged anyone this might get through to was not going to respond to watching a gang of monsters. They remained human beings, and that was a brave step which the initially miscast but eventually surprisingly effective Radcliffe drew out of Nate, a man who after all feels out of the mainstream himself. Not perfect by any means, yet well enough presented to start a more worthwhile conversation than some would allow. Music by Will Bates.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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