Cert: 15 / 93 mins / Dir. Richard Ayoade
There's a disconcerting feeling early in Richard Ayoade's Dostoevsky adaptation that you've seen half of this film before, and that so far, the other half has been all but pencilled in. That feeling isn't eased as time passes. The non-location-specific, non-time-specific setting of the story, with a mix of British, American, and indeterminate European accents, looks and feels like Blade Runner reimagined by Terry Gilliam and set in Hackney. The Double is initially intriguing until we find out that the blanks of the surrounding world won't be filled in, largely because they're unimportant to the narrative, and the blanks of the narrative won't be filled in, largely because the themes are more important. And then the themes are handled with a shrug as the film seems to look over its glasses at you and ask if you understand what's going on and shouldn't you be in the screen down the corridor watching Liam Neeson punching people on a plane?
Reverse film-snobbery, I know, but I engaged with The Double less and less as it went on. The fragile sense of surreality falls further apart as Eisenberg's Simon James becomes embroiled with his titular-double and all-round nemesis, James Simon, but no great sense of meaning (or god-forbid, explanation) takes its place. The deeper and more metaphorical the revelations between the two become, the more apparent it is that the film is flawed on a physical-story level, and would be better suited to animation, where the viewer can let go of reality more easily. By the end of the film, we're not being asked to imagine that these events are happening to a real person, but we're not really offered any alternative, either.
From a more technical viewpoint, I don't believe that Eisenberg was the best choice for the dual-role of Simon/James. The neurotic introvert is a part I've seen him play before, so I now associate that with earlier roles of his, and the forceful bully side of his personality never comes across as convincingly as it needs to. I think he performs them well, but he's just not right for them. Mia Wasikowska also plays admirably as Hanna, the love-interest/foil in the tower-block opposite Simon's, even if her American accent is all over the place (shades of Sam Worthington. No, really).
Self-indulgent to the point of conceitedness, it's not that The Double isn't as clever as it thinks it is, it's just not as meaningful. Meticulously constructed and presented, I didn't believe in any of the characters, so couldn't engage with anything that happened to them. Really interesting, but the trailer looked like it was offering so much more. If ever there was a film where a suitable pull-quote for the poster would be "Really not for me ~ WorldOfBlackout", this would be the one.
It's a sad day when the short cameos by Chris Morris and Tim Key are the things keeping me entertained in a film.
Yes and no.
Only in the first act.
I honestly don't know.
I honestly don't know.
Nah. I won't understand you, though.
I don't think there is, no.
Oh, it's okay, I know you think differently, and I want you to explain why.
Either here or on the Facebook page.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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