The Double is writer/director Richard Ayoade‘s second full feature following his debut, Submarine, and whereas that one didn’t work for me fully, there were a great number of elements in there, particularly the visuals, that showed great promise for Ayoade, who’s best been known as Moss from The IT Crowd, a TV series I could never get into, but I greatly enjoy his presenting work on Channel 4’s Gadget Man, which enters its third series (and second with Ayoade taking the presenting reins) just as this review goes live.
This is the film which features Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) in two different roles, starting off as Simon James, a man drifting through life and work with everyone taking advantage of him. He’s less intrigued by Hannah (Mia Wasikowska, on page 2), a young woman who works in his office and lives in the same block of apartments, but more is obessed with her. He’s also been volunteered by his boss, Mr. Papadopoulos (Wallace Shawn) to mentor his daughter Melanie (the damn sexy Yasmin Paige, below), who looks like she hates the world and anyone who approaches her.
And then, as if life couldn’t get any more weird, his exact double, James Simon, comes into his life, getting a job in his office – the likeness between them being finds everyone else completely oblivious to this fact. While Simon is shy and introspective, James is arrogant and cocksure. In fact, James is like an alternate, more successful version of Simon – basically, he’s the kind of person Simon has always wanted to be. You’ll always know which one is Simon and which is James, however.
Everyone performs menial tasks in their jobs – okay, that’s nothing new in films, but Richard Ayoade blends a perfect mix between a 1940-style office atmosphere while, elsewhere in the building, rudimentary videogames, circa late 70s/early 80s, can be seen to being played. As time goes on, it looks more like an alternate 1980s era to me, perhaps channelling the dark thoughts of George Orwell, while adding his own unique take on it and providing a touch of visual magic to every scene.
In fact, the visuals are so brilliantly inventive in this film that you could see Richard Ayoade going the way of Terry Gilliam, with lots of clever use of bold colours on show.
There’s a great early scene where even geting into work is shown to be a chore, as the security guard doesn’t recognise you and circumstances have led to your pass getting stuck on the train – as shown with a wonderful scene involving Simon’s briefcase.
The Double rather heads in the direction that you expect it to go, but satisfyingly so. And as brilliant as Jesse Eisenberg is… I mean, are, there’s also a scene-stealing performance from the one and only Chris Morris (Brass Eye, Jam).
Go to page 2 for the presentation and extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.