THE IMPOSTER (2012, Bart Layton): 9/10
Having just arrived to Netflix’s streaming catalogue, this dynamic 98-minute documentary should be the first movie on your must-see list. There’s been some talk about the lack of cinematic style in docs these days, especially due to directors’ desire to be faithful to the facts, but few films in 2012 were as inventive, gripping, and gloriously visual as this electrifying filmic page-turner turns out to be.
Cinephiles will recognize the influences immediately: the dramatic re-enactments cut with testimonials of Errol Morris’s THE THIN BLUE LINE, the blurry line between reality and fiction involving the story of an imposter from Abbas Kiarostami’s CLOSE UP, the small town Texas simpletons potentially masking nefarious deeds of Richard Linklater’s BERNIE, the lip-syncing performances from Clio Barnard’s THE ARBOR, and — most pointedly — the devastating power of our brains to allow cognitive biases to warp our behavior beyond any reasonable justification, laid out in Craig Zobel’s COMPLIANCE.
THE IMPOSTER is as good as any of those films listed above. It looks fantastic and wastes not a single shot or line. It tells the story with remarkable clarity while withholding just the right amount of information to provide the maximum dramatic effect, but never once feels too manipulative. There were times I wanted to see more: show me Carey and Beverly walking around their houses, meeting other people — hell, even in a room with each other — and when you wonder why Layton refuses us those moments, you start to question things that perhaps lead you down the same cognitive-bias path that you’re watching on screen. It’s a terrific ploy by Layton, making the truth less important than the journey and what that journey reveals about human nature; both in the characters and in ourselves as viewers.