Documentary thriller unravelling the mysterious, legendary French con artist Frédéric Bourdin and his most famous coup: convincing authorities and a victim's family that he is a 16-year-old American boy who had gone missing three years earlier. In cinemas January 10th.
Few films in the past year have matched the narrative cunning of Bart Layton’s captivating true-crime documentary The Imposter. Perhaps only next to Craig Zobel’s Compliance in its ability to generate disbelieving cries of “oh COME on” from viewers (though the latter has a distancing layer of being completely dramatised), The Imposter’s scintillating, chillingly suspenseful account of how Frenchman Frédéric Bourdin passed himself off as the missing child of a Texan family will leave your jaw hanging at every turn.
Alternating between slickly cinematic reenactments and standard talking heads, the doco benefits from having Bourdin on camera imparting his own story with fast-talking, cocky charisma that leaves no room for remorse. Like a true con-man, he reels us in immediately: from his sly, quick-thinking deception of the police in Spain all the way to San Antonio, where he bizarrely found himself accepted - despite speaking with a thick French accent and not looking a damn thing like him - as Nicholas Barclay, a boy who had been missing for 3 years.
The Imposter is such deftly constructed storytelling that it’s easy to forget that at the very centre of this yarn is a family devastated by a devious crime. But the injection of an ambiguous third-act twist proves the film not only to be a psychologically astute study of identity and deception but also perception. Our doubts as to why Barclay’s family would take in an apparent stranger eventually morph into an acknowledgement that we’re all equally susceptible to believing anything in any given context.