Imperium, a thriller starring the Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, has nothing to do with witchcraft but revolves around Radcliffe going undercover in a white supremacist gang. Imperium is a thriller directed by the debutant Daniel Ragussis and co-written with the former FBI agent Michael German, on whose work the film is based. The movie sheds light on the modern fascist outlook and movement.
Daniel Radcliffe portrays the role of an FBI agent, who goes into a covert operation to infiltrate the ring of a virulent neo-Nazi group. His assignment is to gather information regarding a looming terror threat in the U.S.A. The film opens with the quote “Words build bridges into unexplored regions” by Adolf Hitler.
Radcliffe’s character Nate Parker, a young well-read member of the FBI, is an introvert whose talent is not properly utilized by the FBI. Parker’s affinity for Brahms (the German composer) and the young FBI agent’s uncanny ability to empathize and get into the minds of delinquents make him a social outcast in the FBI office.
During an interrogation with a suspected Islamic terrorist, Parker catches the eye of a supervisory agent, Angela Zamparo (Toni Colette) due to his empathy towards the suspect and his inquisitiveness.
She asks him to penetrate the cover of a white supremacist group in Virginia, who are plotting an incursion on American soil. Nate studies up some real-life faces of the neo-Nazi underbelly from the last few decades.
To this end, he shaves his head and joins the neo-Nazi gang with only a copy of ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People and a big smile. Much of the tension in the film is created by Nate’s charade and the possibility of his cover being compromised. On his first meeting with the skinheads, Nate incurred their wrath because of the choice of his denim.
Parker is seen wearing Levis jeans, which vexes the neo-Nazis as the founder of the brand, Levi Strauss was an American Jew. Nate quickly concocts a story to defend himself. A part of the film is spent in anti-Semitic rants.
After Nate wins the confidence of the skinheads and camouflages himself well within the group, the film depicts banality of evil in the daily lives of the gang members and the audience is left in awe as it could as well be transpiring next door.
When on one occasion Nate visits the house of a prominent organizer, the wife of the organizer innocently offers him cupcakes iced with black swastikas.
On another such occasion, when Nate goes to pay a visit to the house of an influential, white supremacist radio personality Tracy Lett, a frail old woman welcomes him at the door with a warm smile.
A seemingly regular dad and a prominent supremacist Gerry (Sam Trammel) likes having cheeseburgers with his kids at a diner, he also builds tree house for them to protect them from the mud races and hosts barbecues for other congenial white racists in the neighborhood. In the night he is seen attending a neo-Nazi wedding, embellished with emblazing swastikas.
In one scene Nate and Gerry are seen enjoying a composition by Brahms, which garnered distaste in the FBI office for Nate. Nate tries to understand why these ordinary people are espousing radicalism: “you want to change things, so others don’t suffer the way you did.” Nate said. “To get intel on the group’s plan to detonate a bomb made of caesium-137” wonders to himself: “How can you reason with someone like that? How can you change their mind?”
To this end, Nate navigates the white power marches and conservative radio conferences. Nate also uses strings of the n-word and embraces racist Jew jeans comments to reach white supremacists and inspire their confidence.
The film also explores the social conditions that give birth to such hate groups and expounds the thesis, There is only one fundamental ingredient of fascism, victimhood hate as a consequence of disenfranchisement.
In the film subliminal flashes of symbolisms of white nationalist ideologies like cross burning and Nazi marches are shown to correspond aptly to the modern white nationalist movement in reality. The movie is set around Washington in the Northern Virginia area but was shot in Hopewell Virginia after Richmond was scheduled for the UCI Road World Championships.