Daniel Ragussis’s directorial debut is the accomplished, taut thriller Imperium, where an undercover FBI agent seeks to expose and prevent a forthcoming terrorist plot conducted by a militant white supremacist group. Shining a light on a truly abhorrent culture in the States – and one that seems all too pertinent given Trump’s recent racially-motivated hate campaign, giving a voice to the ‘silent majority’ – well here we hear them speak up, and the results are terrifying.
Daniel Radcliffe plays Nate, an introverted, diligent analyst picked on by his colleagues, never quite fitting in, but using his intellect to get him by. This catches the attention of his superior Angela Zamparo (Toni Collete) who assigns Nate to his first undercover mission, to infiltrate a neo-Nazi terrorist group, and get close to their charismatic leader Dallas Wolf (Tracy Letts). The intention is to determine whether they are planning an attack on civilisation, and while Nate navigates his way around this dangerous criminal underworld, the FBI are becoming impatient with his lack of findings. But the more he digs, the darker the situation gets, and he pleads for more time, despite being weary that the group are concerned there might be a rat amongst them.
Ragussis presents an intriguing, original depiction of this particular sub-culture, showing it off to be very socially formal at times, as the intimidating, neo-Nazi shaved-head imbeciles meet for BBQ’s, with kids running around, decorations adorning the walls, and cupcakes being passed around with swastikas iced on top. At times the peril is diluted, for it seems to be a front; an identity without any real action – just misinformed thugs wanting to feel a part of something. But this feeling doesn’t last very long, as Ragussis injects some truly suspenseful sequences that, while few and far between, are a challenge to sit through.
The film does suffer from Radcliffe’e diminutive figure however, and while his performance impresses, it’s the casting that you query – for you wonder how they’d all take him so seriously as a new member of their gang when he turns up looking as though he’s just waiting for his dad to finish work. The character transition is somewhat difficult to adhere to as well, for the way Nate begins the film, and then how he suddenly acts when on the job is remarkably contrasting, to a point where you just struggle to believe in it.
That all being said, it’s arguably the actor’s best post-Potter performance, proving his worth as a dramatic actor and ensuring that he’s a force to be reckoned with. It’s also another example of Radcliffe vying to try new things and refresh his career, and it’s hard not to admire him for that. I mean, just take a look at what he’s got coming up next after this undercover Nazi role – he plays a farting corpse… Now that’s diverse!