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EW Movie Review: "The Imposter"

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There’s a new documentary in theaters about the incredible true story of a missing boy and his reunion with his family after spending three years apart. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly magazine filed the following review.

“The Imposter” is one of those documentaries, like “Capturing the Friedmans,” that’s a total page-turner. It tells a true story that is so unbelievable, so deeply and compellingly stranger than fiction that you don't so much watch the film as get addicted to it.

Back in 1994, Nicholas Barclay, a towheaded 13-year-old boy from San Antonio, Texas, went missing. Three years later, he turned up in Spain. But the movie, from the start, lets us know that the Barclay who resurfaced wasn't Barclay at all. He was a French-Algerian vagrant and con-artist named Frédéric Bourdin who had a European accent and the swarthy features of the young Antonio Banderas.

Director Bart Layton builds “The Imposter” around an interview with Bourdin, who narrates the events like a real-life Tom Ripley. He’s articulate and charming but how on earth did he fool Barclay’s family? Just by dyeing his hair blond? Or was it all about the way he exploited their desperation to get Barclay back?

As “The Imposter” unfolds, other scenarios suddenly loom up, like the possibility that we might be watching a Casey Anthony situation. The cast of characters is as creepy as “Blood Simple,” from a private detective eager to dig up a body to Barclay’s mother, who is like a backwoods Mason Reese.

I do wish that “The Imposter” didn't extend the trend of documentaries using re-enactments. In too many shots, we can't trust our eyes. Yet in a sense that's almost justified since not trusting what you see is the essence of this movie's appeal.

“The Imposter” is in theaters now.

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