“Based on a True Story” or “Inspired by Real Events” usually means a movie has taken huge liberties with the facts and truth surrounding an event a film has been inspired by. I can think of a few examples where after researching the event, due to the interest the film raised, I found that I had been lied to or at least misled for entertainment reasons. It occurs more frequently with “Historical” movies but there are always a range of films, each year, that have that tagline and play fast and loose with the terms “inspired” and “based on.”
I mention this because if I was watching a dramatic version of The Imposter, with the words “based on a true story” attached to the beginning and advertising of the movie, I would be very skeptical of how much they had embellished. This is why more people need to watch documentaries and take a punt on a format many deem “boring.” The Imposter’s story is so incredible and so unbelievable, it almost has to be true.
I’m stuck in one of those situations where if I tell you too much, it will ruin the movie for people who should definitely see it. All you need to know is that a young boy goes missing and then three years later, another boy, living in Spain, claims to be their son. He isn’t, but regardless of the strange accent, different hair colour and different face (!) the parents take him in and accept him as their son anyway!
This is what you get from the very beginning of the movie because, quite shockingly, you are given full access to every party involved. Usually with a story this fantastic and unbelievable, certain people involved will be unavailable or decline to talk but we have everyone here from the Mother who took the Imposter in to the Imposter himself. It means we get all access, full disclosure from the very beginning and I guarantee you will be gripped and shocked throughout.
It’s not just the amazing tale of the parents who took in a boy clearly not their own, or how the Imposter “fooled” these people that keeps you engaged. There is so much more to the story as it develops. This isn’t just an investigation into who The Imposter is and why he does what he does but it also delves into the disappearance of the original young boy and the history surrounding the family involved. It will leave you wondering who the bad guys and good guys are – or if there are any good guys at all.
The story itself is enough to sell this movie but the format the documentary takes makes it very accessible. It has the standard talking heads but does a great job of re-enacting key events and demonstrating key moments using dramatic reconstruction. It is also edited brilliantly, showing the story in all its intricacies without giving away the huge reveals until just the right time.
The Imposter is a masterclass in how to make a documentary but I think most of that is because of how incredible the story actually is. It is a tale that I would love to see given the true, Hollywood treatment but I don’t think anyone not familiar with the actual story would believe it could be true.
Overall, The Imposter is a fascinating, excellently made documentary that will stay with you for a long time after the credits have rolled. It will leave you with unanswerable questions, baffling thoughts but most of all an astonishment that something like this could actually happen at all.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)