Running On Apathy

Patient: Impostor

Profile: Ordinary guy in the future gets caught up in extraordinary circumstances when he's arrested for being an enemy cyborg. Then he escapes. Heavy breathing and discharged firearms ensue. Think The Fugitive meets Farenheit 451 meets North by Northwest meets Why Does the Future Have So Few 100 Watt Bulbs and Fashion Choices? Symptoms: This is the most curious case I've had since Charlie Sheen came into the office with a growth so advanced it could perform long division. Here we have a fast-moving film that looks cool, offers lots of action and has a nice twist at the end. Given that, it's strange that Impostor lacks any real suspense—or maybe not so strange, since we really don't know anything about the main character. We know a lot about the year 2079: during a drawn-out war, earthlings have surrendered a lot of freedom in the name of security—hmmmm. But we know precious little about the one person we're meant to care about. Apparently we're supposed to cull all we need to know from a voice-over during the opening credits as he and his wife are shown making love as if they're really into it—looking into each other's eyes and such. Talk about science fantasy. The only thing that tells us is this guy really must be a cyborg.

Gary Sinise and Madeleine Stowe Diagnosis: Running on apathy. Prescription: They've been making these types of movies since Robert Donat was big box office. (You remember: The 39 Steps, 1935.) Some guy is unjustly pursued and threatened. We identify with him not because he's average—Cary Grant, average?—but because he's a regular guy who doesn't seek out trouble. As Americans, it hurts our sense of justice and feeds our birthright paranoia. Still, we must be assured that this guy is worthy of our worry. It doesn't take long, just longer than the two minutes Impostor took. Show us a strange quirk or two, his own sense of right and wrong, that he's a good friend. You know, you don't have to do this all in the beginning. You can reveal the character in bits throughout the film. It requires slowing down several times, but that's okay—a couple of conversations, perhaps a longing look at an old photo, whatever works. You seem so concerned with showing us what neat gadgets the future holds that you forget human beings will remain most interested in other human beings. Show us a human being and make us care about him and his plight in a world that has traded liberty for safety. We'll care because we know that guy as we know that world.

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