A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Imperium is a dramatic thriller about an FBI agent who goes undercover as a white supremacist to uncover a potential act of violence. There's disturbing imagery relating to Nazis, white supremacists, and "dirty bombs," as well as punching and violence at a rally, with some blood shown. Guns are shown frequently but rarely fired, and explosives are constructed but not detonated. Language is extremely strong, with almost constant use of "f--k," plus many uses of "s--t" and the "N" word. Main characters are shown smoking cigarettes and drinking wine and whisky, while supporting characters seem to frequently get drunk on beer or vodka. This is an intense, upsetting movie that's also thrilling and manages to stay on the side of good, but it includes a lot of discussion about white supremacy that requires a certain maturity to absorb and sort through.
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What's the story?
In IMPERIUM, when a white supremacist talk radio host, Dallas Wolf (Tracy Letts), reveals that he has information about something big coming up, the FBI takes notice. Agent Angela Zamparo (Toni Collette) singles out the withdrawn Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe) to go undercover, infiltrate white supremacy groups, and get close to Wolf. Foster meets with some violent, hateful thugs and a religious group before finding the intelligent, idealistic Gerry Conway (Sam Trammell), who, like Nate, loves classical music and is a reader and a deep thinker. When Wolf proves a dead end, it's Conway who proves to be more dangerous. But can Nate blow the whistle before he gets too deeply involved?
Is it any good?
Daniel Ragussis' debut feature is better at being suspenseful than it is at being socially relevant; but at the same time, it has moments in which it terrifies and inspires despair and dread. Radcliffe is the key to everything working. He's shown to be the antithesis of a traditional tough guy, smaller than everyone else, a lover of classical music, and in need of glasses. His performance as an undercover agent is slightly desperate and panicked, but his nice-guy quality is disarming; one skinhead punk remarks, disbelieving, that, "everyone likes you."
Whenever the plot of Imperium jumps too quickly or skips a step, it's Radcliffe who glues it all back together. Trammell is also surprisingly effective as a deeply thoughtful white supremacist, the scariest of the bunch because he's so soft-spoken and unhurried. Rounding out the story's corners, Collette and Letts are equally great, and the cast members all work together to nail down the volatile yet simplistic story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Imperium's violence. What does the movie choose to show, and what does it withhold? Is the violence thrilling or disturbing/threatening? How? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
In the end, the movie blames a lot of what came before on fascism. What does this mean? How does it apply to real life?
How would you describe the movie's take on the issue of white supremacy? Are any of the characters who are part of that community sympathetic? How does that make you feel?
Does the movie glorify smoking and drinking?
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