There are moments in The Double that are dazzling and are shot like something out of a classic noir. The shifting scenery and the movement of the walking Jesse Eisenberg linked with the camera makes it seem so sleek and different from what is usually coming out in cinema. But the dazzling visuals aren’t able to help the story also, that at times feels like something big but in reality is small, and forgets that pairing them together is what makes a film spectacular. In the end, it is disappointing but is still amazing thanks to its knack for being different from the rest.
The Double follows Simon, a lonely clerk working in a government agency, who is invisible to the world around him. This is made apparent when at the beginning of the film, he walks up to the door to be let in and the guard does not allow him to do so. Simon doesn’t understand it because he has worked there for seven years.
Enter James. He is likable, a lady-killer, and hitting it off with all the upper management people in the agency. But no one realizes James’ biggest attribute, he looks exactly like Simon. Writer/director Richard Ayoade crafts a thriller that brings up a point that is like the surrealist version of Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. James and Simon look the exact same but with polar opposite personalities. Both realize this and team up to help Simon get with his crush, Hannah (Mia Wasikowaska), who lives across the street from him and has become the object of his affections (and creepy stalking).
The idea behind Simon’s loneliness and social awkwardness is a drawn out concept but one, with this premise, that could be promising. While Eisenberg does a great job playing both characters, his portrayal of Simon comes off as creepy and unrelatable, not a hero you can get behind. Instead becoming more of an anti-hero and alienating himself from the audience as a person to root for until the very end. The only saving grace for Simon is how despicable James is towards him, eventually stealing the girl and throwing him under the bus on route to a promotion.
But what sets The Double apart from others is the visual style that Ayoade brings to the film and the way he is able to create this surreal, absurd reality within the confines of real life. It is never specified if where these people operate is somewhere other than Earth but the way the film is shot argues that this is as much science fiction than anything.
The Double is a refreshing, noir-style thriller that is unlike anything else but struggles to bring a story that is wholly different like the visuals. Eisenberg is good but seems reserved in the role of Simon while having to break out a little more as James. It is a film that wants to be incredibly thought provoking but instead is more of eye candy.