Apparently, this is the year for films about supposed twins and clones. With Enemy already being a successful, enigmatic thriller that delves into the psychosis of its main character, there are a lot of questions that surround this newer film. With similar source material, but different settings and executions, these double films both bring a lot to the table and offer up things that the other may be missing. If you like strange films that take you on wild trips, you’re in for an odd treat.
Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) is an introverted, strange, and quiet fellow, who spends most of his time working for a government agency in the seclusion of his small office. By day, the greyness and odd sounds of the office machines are all Simon sees and hears, until he makes his routine trip downstairs to see Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), the girl he secretly admires from afar. He often spies on her from his apartment and he’s never been able to muster up the courage to talk to her and ask her out. No one remembers or notices Simon and his days become repetitive, as people seem to see right through him. However, that all changes when Simon’s boss (Wallace Shawn) reveals that a new, hardworking young man will be joining the agency.
This new man is James Simon (Jesse Eisenberg), an exact double of Simon physically. Mentally, however, James is Simon’s opposite, as he’s suave, confident, and doesn’t take no for an answer. The two are aware that they’re identical, but no one else seems to notice. At first, the two help one another out and take each other’s places, in an effort to improve the other’s life. That’s all good and well, until James starts to go too far and begins taking of Simon’s life. When James starts going after Hannah and taking credit for Simon’s work, Simon falls into a terrible pit of horror and can’t seem to find a way out. He’s not match for James, but he also can’t do nothing about his situation. He’ll have to get lost in his mind to find a way to solve his predicament before it’s too late.
The Double is a very curious film a number of reasons. Director Richard Ayoade has adapted Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s novel of the same name and he stayed true to the source material. Dostoevsky had a knack for create a gloomy atmosphere and this film certainly encapsulates that wonderfully. However, this film is very odd and at times can be hard to follow, given its story and progression of events. Still, The Double does have a lot going for it and it’s a mind trip that’s worth giving a shot.
Jesse Eisenberg, who always seems to play the same character in every film (shy, introverted, quirky), really shines in The Double, as he’s allowed the opportunity to play two opposing characters. Naturally, he plays Simon with excellence and fits right in with the story. He longs for affection and to be noticed and his character’s facial nuances speak more to his internal struggle. As James, Eisenberg displays a new side of himself that many of us have been waiting for. He effortlessly charms women and speaks so coolly with everyone he’s around. His interactions with himself seem extremely genuine and it all looks and feels real. He keeps your interest and guides you throughout this film’s odd journey.
Mia Wasikowska does an excellent job adapting to each version of Eisenberg and being her own person as well. Her character is also lonely and expresses a wide range of emotions in this odd world they all live in. All the other supporting characters do a lot more than you’d think, as they all act on a swivel. They react differently to the double Eisenberg’s and they make it easier and more difficult for the doubles. Every setting in this film serves as its own character, as the dreary office setting creates a dark realm that Simon inhabits. It affects his character immensely, as does his apartment which confines him to a lonely life. The rolling fog and dark streets are full of foreshadowing and enhance the eeriness that is ever-present with Simon and James.
If there’s any major credit due, it certainly goes to Ayoade for his masterful direction and editing. The Double follows Simon throughout his mind and bleak life and Ayoade’s shots and quick cuts create some suspense and tension as Simon wanders to his next location. As one door closes in the film, the next shot is an opening into a new location. These cuts happen often in The Double and they’re very useful and enjoyable to watch. Even more enjoyable, is the sound and score that set an ominous tone all throughout the film. There are a ton of old school sounds that make the office unbearable, but there are also more meticulous sounds that spook Simon as he spends his nights alone. Ayoade has really shown a talent for direction and I do hope that he continues to share his point of view more often.
I was puzzled by some of this film and at first, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I had to do some research and digging to discover what I was missing and even then, I still felt like I didn’t get a firm grasp on this film as a whole. The edits, while stylish and fun, sometimes cut away too soon for you to realize what’s happening and it’s hard to distinguish what Simon is actually seeing, compared to what he’s imagining (or is he imagining?). This film felt like a Hitchcock-wananabe in some ways and those Hitchcockian moments are hit and miss. I wouldn’t call this film boring because it is very odd and strangely engrossing, but there’s just not a lot going on. I found myself waiting for something mildly surprising to happen, but the film came up short in that department.
I’m still piecing this film together and it’s one that I’d like to watch again, in order to better understand what all was going on. This film will appeal to movie fanatics and those of whom that like weirder movies. The Double is a film that gets you thinking and has you in a sort of trance, as the music and sounds are nearly hypnotic. I’ve never seen Jesse Eisenberg stretch his range before and it was brilliant getting to see him show off a new side of himself. He needs to continue doing new things, as does Ayoade, who clearly has a gift for direction. This is a great sophomoric effort from him and I’d be intrigued to see what he does next.
The Double Trailer