So I recently got my hands on Richard Ayoade’s latest film ‘The Double’, and man, this guy is going to do some amazing things. If you didn’t know who he is, Ayoade played Maurice on ‘The IT Crowd’, but more importantly Dean Learner on the amazing, but short-lived ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ (which I also learned he directed). Back in 2010, he made his first feature ‘Submarine’, a coming-of-age dramedy and a really, really damn good movie. With ‘The Double’, Ayoade explores much deeper themes (The Double being loosely based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky). However, even with such intimidating source material, Ayoade’s voice and sharp whit shine through in yet another contender for my top movies of the year list.
Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) can’t seem to catch a break. Heading to work on the subway, his briefcase gets caught in the door, as an onlooker does nothing to help the poor guy out. His ID badge for his job just so happened to be in the briefcase as well. It’s a sad look into the life of a sad, quiet, overlooked man, and the movie follows that trend for about the first half or so. That is, until James Simon shows up; and he looks exactly like Simon James. However, this new version ‘James’ is the polar opposite from Simon. Outgoing, confident, and smooth with the ladies, Simon doesn’t understand how nobody sees the resemblance, until his coworker tells him that he’s “Just not very memorable.” Simon tries to be friends with James, but his counterpart ultimately begins to take over his life, as well as the woman he’s in love with (Mia Wasikowska). Without spoiling how it all ends, The Double is another one of those rare breed of movies that conclude in such a marvelous and clever way that it retroactively makes the whole movie better.
One of the aspects of The Double that I loved most was the world that Ayoade and his production designers built for it. In my notes I wrote down ‘quirky Orwell’ and ‘gloomy Wes Anderson’ and I think those describe it pretty well. Most of the movie feels like it takes place in a very fake world, with sets looking very simple and clean. It’s not a colorful movie either, helping to showcase that this is very much a dystopian version of the future, in line with Orwell or Huxley. Everyone works in their little cubicles, takes the train back home, and sleeps in small, cramped little rooms in large apartment buildings. There’s even a suicide patrol, for god’s sake!
The movie does look a bit ‘cheap’, but you can absolutely tell it was a decision made on purpose. Along with the sparse set design, and chaotic, beautiful soundtrack, the cinematography is incredible. Whether it be long, creatively blocked shots, or quick back-and-forths, the cinematographer Erik Wilson really hit this one out of the park. I’ve also got to mention they did a great job creating two Jesse Eisenberg’s for the movie. Eisenberg himself did the most work in that regard though, in what was one of the most surprising performances I’ve seen in awhile. The guy has been a little one-note to me recently (although he’s a great actor) but he plays both James and Simon with such versatility, that even when it cuts to him being silent and staring, you know just which double you’re watching. His Simon is a role you’d expect him to play, but James is so proud, maniacal, and downright scary that it gives me a lot of new-found hope that this guy is playing Lex Luthor.
To wrap things up, this is not a movie for everybody. It’s very stark and dreary from the get-go, but it’s got a great, dry sense of humor that lasts throughout. It also balances that with the increasing tension that doesn’t let up until the credits roll. The Double is such a well made movie, in every single aspect. From cinematography to the soundtrack, and writing to the performances, I loved it. Richard Ayoade is probably the best new(ish) director in the game right now, and I can’t wait to see what he does down the road.
That’s going to be it for this entry, thanks for checking it out! If you have any questions about the movie, or want to talk about it, hit me up on Facebook or on here. Also, if you want to check out an older review, there’s a tab at the top called ARCHIVES where you can go read some of the other movies I’ve written about. I think I said MAZE RUNNER was going to be the next review, but I saw The Double and just had to get it all out of my system. Maze Runner will for sure be next, probably within the next few days, so keep checking back and thanks for reading!