Review: The Double / Cert: 15 / Director: Richard Ayoade / Screenplay: Richard Oyoade, Avi Korine / Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Chris O’Dowd, James Fox, Paddy Considine / Release Date: Out Now
Richard Ayoade’s sophomore turn in the director’s chair confirms our suspicions from his first movie, 2011’s quirky coming-of-age comedy/drama Submarine. Ayoade’s just ain’t interested in becoming Britain’s answer to Michael Bay. After all The Double is based on a novella by Dostoyevsky and, unless we’re very much mistaken, Transformers 4 isn’t. But Ayoade, still best known from his role as computer nerd Moss in The IT Crowd, may just, however, become the natural successor to Terry Gilliam (although we’re hoping that Mr G has a few good years and movies left in him yet).
And it’s Gilliam’s magnus opus Brazil that The Double, surely not unintentionally, resembles. Set in some dour, featureless maybe-not-this-reality dystopian hell, The Double stars Jesse Eisenberg as ordinary Joe, Simon James, working unnoticed and unappreciated in a grim, grey Gilliamesque administrative job. Simon is stunned when James Simon turns up for work and he’s a dead ringer (or double, if you will) for Simon but with a brash, outspoken, outgoing personality which is the exact opposite of Simon’s quiet, shy, unassuming demeanour. So unremarkable is Simon that no one seems to notice that he’s suddenly got a charismatic doppelganger. Simon has a crush on cute co-worker Hannah (Wasikowska), but hasn’t got a clue how he should woo her until James offers him some advice in the art of gentle seduction. But James is a faster worker than Simon and soon not only is Hannah slipping away from Simon’s grasp, so is his grip on reality…
Ayoade battles manfully against his doubtlessly tiny budget to create a stifling, uncomfortably grey world which, despite its resemblance to similar dystopias in other, frankly better films, still manages to convince in its depiction of an unsettling, disorientating environment populated by slightly not-right characters. Eisenberg makes for a compelling and wide-eyed, if sometimes slightly irritating, leading man but the film’s best moments are those which amplify its themes of paranoia and creeping madness by presenting welcome if all too-brief cameos from the likes of Tim Key, the brilliant maverick comic genius Chris Morris and Ayoade’s old IT Crowd sparring partner Chris O’Dowd as well as virtually the entire cast of Submarine. Eventually, spotting the film’s influences, whether it’s Gilliam or Lynch’s Eraserhead amongst others, is rather more satisfying than the film’s inevitably ambiguous ‘is this real or isn’t it?’ storyline and The Double suffers because it can’t decide whether it wants to be an art house thriller or a mainstream mystery. But Ayoade keeps it all moving at a decent clip, it’s impressively atmospheric and, in the end, it’s the product of a promising director whose work can only get better and, hopefully, more strikingly individual.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10