The Double (2014) Review:

Twice as good as any other film starring Mr. Eisenberg.

On the train.
On the train.

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, et al.

Director: Richard Ayoade

Runtime: 93 minutes

Plot: (Taken from IMDb) Simon is a timid man, scratching out an isolated existence in an indifferent world. He is overlooked at work, scorned by his mother, and ignored by the woman of his dreams. He feels powerless to change any of these things. The arrival of a new co-worker, James, servews to upset the balance. James is both Simon’s exact physical double and his opposite – confident, charismatic and good with women. To Simon’s horror, James slowly starts taking over his life.

The Double is Richard Ayoade’s second feature film to date, following on from the rather brilliant Submarine of a few years ago. While perhaps not quite catching the same kind of excellence as that film, The Double sets itself apart almost entirely and what we are given is a dark film that alludes strongly to one of my favourite directors – Terry Gilliam.

The Double sets itself up as a dark comedy that thrives on loneliness, repetition and something of an eerie nature heavily bent under its own weight of creepiness. Ayoade’s direction here is superb as we are fully drawn into Simon’s (Jesse Eisenberg) world through the use of lighting, set-design and acting.

Production values in The Double shine throughout, with the sleazy, lonely world really coming to life in spectacular fashion. Simon’s workplace in particular is fantastic and looks like something taken straight out of Brazil. Indeed, the closest resemblance to any film in The Double is Brazil. But unlike Brazil, The Double is 93 minutes long, easier to digest.

Ayoade is no slouch then, and neither is Eisenberg. Usually I find the actor annoying, a bit full of himself, but in The Double he totally owns it. Eisenberg plays both Simon and James, and is great in both performances. Simon is quiet, put down and nothing ever seems to go his way, whereas James is brash, confident and always seems to get his own way. It is through Eisenberg’s performances that The Double really becomes something special, even the rapport between both characters comes across really well.

Ooh... dark.
Ooh… dark.

The rest of the cast performs well too, with Mia Wasikowska in particular nailing the part of the love interest, with a performance that befits the character particularly well. There are a few great cameos too, with Chris O’ Dowd and Christopher Morris being particular standouts. But really, it is Eisenberg who deserves the merits here as he does the most important thing of them all the best: the comic timing.

The Double is a surprisingly funny film, a lot funnier than I thought it would be. A look on IMDb will tell you that the film is a Drama/Thriller; IMDb is wrong. It is odd humour however that goes on awkward movements as much as what is said. An odd thing about the humour as more of a side note, if you’re watching this as an art film (as the majority of the audience did when I saw it), don’t take it so seriously, this is a comedy. A comedy with brains.

The plot itself may be a tad confusing, as James literally does come from nowhere, but you will get into it. Be prepared for an ending that doesn’t quite make sense however, as there is something of a contradiction involved. Indeed, the ending of the film is really it’s only negative, perhaps the less-than-stellar reviews the film got were written by people who simply did not understand that The Double is a comedy.

Summary:

The Double is a quirky little film from the ever brilliant Richard Ayoade that does not slap you in the face with comedy or tragedy, but handles both with fine precision. Prepare for a slightly confusing ride, but a ride that will keep you thinking back for quite some time.

The Double is one of this year’s finest, shame about its limited release.

90/100

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