I’ve been looking forward this movie since before it was released but never got around to watching it until now. Director Richard Ayoade is one of my favourite people ever and his first film Submarine – a quirky, coming of age indie comedy – is one of my all time favourites. This is only his second film and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I knew it would be unusual. And I like unusual.
The Double is set in a claustrophobic, broken universe in an indeterminable place and indeterminable time – an almost retro futuristic world of grimy tower blocks and clunky computers and coloured a grim, post apocalyptic grey-green colour. Jesse Eisenberg plays an awkward, emotionally constricted, lonely office worker collecting some sort of data in an ill-fitting grey suit, leading a monotonous life. He works hard at his job but is so forgettable that even the security guard he sees every morning doesn’t remember him, and he is overlooked by the woman of his dreams. Simon James is a non-person and everything seems to be going against him and pushing him out of his world.
When a new employee arrives at Simons work, everything starts to get even worse. James Simon is a confident, brash, charming man, essentially everything Simon is not, who also happens to be Simons’ exact doppelgänger – yet nobody else seems to notice. Eisenberg plays both characters so well, with his natural awkwardness amplified as Simon and with subtle shifts in body language to play his more confident doppelgänger, James. Towards the end of the movie when the pace picks up, I really liked having to sometimes figure out which character I was watching. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not but it adds to the idea that James is just an ideal of the man Simon wants to be but is not. It makes you question whether or not it is Simon that is the sane one and the rest of the world that are crazy, or Simon the crazy one and the rest of the world sane.
I love movies like this that draw you in to a characters’ existential crisis so much that you believe every action of theirs is justified and that the rest of the characters are plotting against them. Then all of sudden there’s a point in the movie where you realise that maybe they are insane, and you’ve just been looking at their world through their insane eyes.
This movie doesn’t spoon feed you. It’s vague – very vague – and although it did feel a little bit flat sometimes, I liked that about it. The dialogue is deadpan, it’s probably impossible to figure out what the hell it actually means and it’s pretty bleak, but I love a well scripted take on the bleakness of existence so I really enjoyed it. It’s a really clever take on identity and I think I definitely need to watch it again to get more from it.