The Imposter

The Imposter (2012)


A 13-year-old boy disappears. Three years later a 23-year-old (Frédéric Bourdin) assumes his identity, despite looking nothing like him (and having a French accent!), and the boy’s family seems to buy the ruse.

The director does a good job of manipulating the audience, skillfully weaving in re-enactments, and the people involved are undeniably intriguing.

However, this feels as though the filmmakers came upon a great story, but realized it wouldn’t take long to tell, so they padded it out to feature length. The movie spins its wheels for the first half, diluting its narrative by dealing with unnecessary minutia. It’s important for the audience to spend some time with the subjects in order to have a better understanding of their unusual behaviour, but quite a bit could have been cut out of the film.

Near the end, the movie raises the possibility that the missing boy was killed by his family. This is an especially unseemly accusation coming from Bourdin, a sociopath – and habitual liar – who was welcomed by said family and who took advantage of their grief. An FBI agent and a local investigator have similar suspicions. The main reason for this conjecture is that they see it as the only reason the family would accept Bourdin as their son. This is, to put it mildly, a weak basis for such allegations, especially after the film has built such a strong case that the reason they believed he was their son was because they very badly wanted to believe it. Considering this thread ends up leading nowhere, why does the movie grant it so much weight? The most likely answer is that the filmmakers were motivated by a desire to artificially inject some sensationalism into the proceedings, reality show-style, and to appropriate the ambiguity of other, far superior documentaries such as Capturing the Friedmans. While it was important to include this aspect of the case, the way it’s presented takes away from the central subject of the film, which remains a fascinating case of confirmation bias.


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