That least mined of all film genres — the docudrama — finds full-throated expression in the service of a true story that is, as the saying goes, stranger than fiction. Director Bart Layton puts to great use the skills he polished helming television documentary programs such as “Locked Up Abroad.” Here, the subject is Frederic Bourdin, a 23-year-old European con artist who convinces Spanish authorities that he is Nicholas Barclay, a San Antonio boy who went missing over three years previous — when Nicholas was 13. Most expedient to the telling of one of the most convoluted stories you could imagine, is Bourdin’s candid straight-to-camera recalling of every twist in a list of unlikely decisions and events that delivered him into the arms of a "loving" family with nearly as many secrets as him.
Much of the joy of watching “The Imposter” derives from the way the filmmaker allows bits and pieces of information to gradually gel into a tangible form. Interviews with Nicholas Barclay’s family members, FBI officials, and even a local private detective, piece together the kind of policier puzzle that even pro screenwriters would marvel at. Layton’s elegant sense of restraint and purposeful organization of a colossal amount of dense exposition provides a seamless storyline that gains suspense as it goes along. The less an audience knows about the story going in, the more rewarded they will be as the final credits roll. The film’s tagline, “There are two sides to every lie” couldn’t suit the material any better.
Rated R. 95 mins. (A-) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)
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