The Imposter

2012

The Imposter

Critics Consensus

Despite its true-crime trappings, The Imposter is an utterly gripping and sometimes heartbreaking documentary thriller cleverly told with narrative flair.

96%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 114

78%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 93,659
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Movie Info

Nicholas was 13 the day he disappeared (June 13, 1994). He would have been 16 and 8 months when he was reported found in Spain (October 7, 1997)... In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappears without a trace from San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later he is found alive, thousands of miles away in a village in southern Spain with a story of kidnap and torture. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not quite as it seems. The boy bears many of the same distinguishing marks he always had, but why does he now have a strange accent? Why does he look so different? And why doesn't the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It's only when an investigator starts asking questions that this strange tale takes an even stranger turn... -- (C) Indomina

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Critic Reviews for The Imposter

All Critics (114) | Top Critics (35)

  • Director Bart Layton pieces together a story you wouldn't believe if it wasn't true.

    Sep 19, 2018 | Full Review…
  • In the annals of forged identity flicks, this is a towering Everest, dwarfing the deceivers in the likes of Catch Me If You Can and F for Fake.

    Oct 12, 2012 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • This is edge-of-your-seat stuff and the difficulty is in the telling of the tale. To give any of this film away is a crime. You simply have to see it for yourself.

    Oct 11, 2012 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The most fascinating aspect of the movie is why the missing boy's family believed the imposter's story.

    Sep 13, 2012 | Rating: 3/4
  • You may begin to wonder if you aren't being conned by the movie yourself.

    Aug 31, 2012 | Full Review…
  • British director Bart Layton has only slightly fictionalised this extraordinary story for his documentary, which is told more as a thriller than a statement of hard fact.

    Aug 24, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Imposter

  • May 07, 2014
    It'd have been even better if they'd made a movie based on these events. The interviews, at times, shatter the involvement with the documentary film. But yeah, it gave a picture of how far a criminal's mind can reach, despite having quite a different appearance than the missing child. Making it in fully movie format would have helped the twist better.
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Mar 20, 2014
    "The Imposter" is a suspenseful, multi-leveled and twist-filled documentary about 13-year old Nicholas Barclay who is found 3 years after having disappeared from San Antonio in Spain and is soon after reunited with his family. Except... It is not Nicholas. It is Frederic, a 23 year-old con man.(Actually, his name is not revealed until late in the documentary but really it's not a big deal.) At the start, he pretends to be a teenager to get into a group home where at least at first he will not be identified and sent to prison. But with the threat of being fingerprinted hanging over him, he hatches a scheme to pretend to be a lost teenager from America. And then it turns out he may have outsmarted himself when Nicholas' sister arrives from America. In the stranger than fiction department(which includes a private investigator from Texas named Charlie Parker), "The Imposter" poses some questions(some of which are very dark indeed) for which it may not think it has the answers. The first of which is how could both Nicholas' family and the American authorities be so easily fooled by somebody who did not even resemble him. I agree part of it may have to do with wish fulfillment, not only for the family but also the feds who may have been salivating at the opportunity to go after a human trafficking ring like the one Frederic described to them. The other part involves Frederic who I think underestimates his own talents when being interviewed. Even though he currently seems sincere, there are some chinks in the armor where the cool operator emerges from the shadows. But just as unreliable a narrator as he probably is, you also have to remember at the same time the old saying that even a broke clock is right twice a day.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 15, 2013
    A brilliant drama-doc that draws you in but still leaves you wondering if you're any closer to the truth at the end. The interviews and recreated footage are melded so well that you forget that you are watching a documentary and not a feature film. Bourdin is a charismatic interviewee and you can't help but like him. Highly recommended to anyone who likes a great suspense thriller.
    David S Super Reviewer
  • Aug 22, 2013
    The Truth, they say, is often stranger than fiction. And yes I am beginning this review with that over used cliché but can you blame me? This recycled phrase is the perfect one to describe the events depicted in Brian Layton's Docu-drama The Imposter. This is a film that presents us with a story so bizarre, tragic, fascinating and unbelievable, that well; it just had to be true. In June 1994 13-year old Nicholas Barclay went missing without a trace from his home in San Antonio, Texas. His distraught family heard nothing about him for 3 and half years until, out of nowhere, he is allegedly found by authorities in Spain. This raises a number of questions including: how this young American teen end did up in a village in southern Spain? And how did it take so long for him to be found? The answer, of course, is the only logical one. This is not Nicholas Barclacy, this is an Imposter. In October 1997, a resourceful young confidence man named Frederic Bourdin, 23 at the time, is brought into police custody claiming to be a lost youth from America. And through a series of remarkable events and luck, he ends up assuming the identity of Nicholas Barclay, despite the fact he looks absolutely nothing like him. Bourdin then convinces the FBI, the US media and most surprisingly of all, Nicholas' own family (who he ends up living with), of who he isn't. Layton weaves this incredible story through a series of dramatic re-enactments and first hand interviews with those involved and as a result it plays out much like a feature film would with twists coming in just at the right time for narrative convenience. This is the kind of narrative flair we rarely see in feature documentaries ( and also why some purists of the genre were up in arms about the film). Regardless of your preference of how documentaries should be made, this tactic makes for engrossing true drama. You see, the story doesn't play out the way you expect it to as private investigators and possible familial skeletons in the closet come into the mix. The questions we started with have already been answered but we are left with new ones. Did the Barclay family genuinely believe that Bourdin was Nicholas just because they wanted it to be true or were they hiding something much more sinister? It all depends on who you, the viewer, believe? Layton himself doesn't claim to know the truth and with a self-confessed confidence man and some suspect family members it's difficult to know where it lies. An intoxicating documentary that does things a little differently, The Imposter is rewarding as it engaging.
    mark c Super Reviewer

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