Connect with us
The Double movie 2013
Image: StudioCanal

Film

The Double Crams Two Many Ideas Into One Movie

Revisiting Richard Ayoade’s The Double

Better to have an ungainly surplus of ideas than none at all; that seems to be Richard Ayoade’s philosophy behind The Double, a wild, uneven, but never dull sci-fi black comedy that purports to tackle Dostoevsky’s novella of the same name, but is at least as interested in pilfering visual ideas from films gone by while marrying them to Ayoade’s winningly dry comic sensibility.

Set in a bleak retro-futuristic dystopia, The Double stars Jesse Eisenberg, who amplifies his usual bumbling manner for slapstick’s sake, as Simon James, a number-cruncher at a massive corporation whose precise purpose is deliberately ambiguous. Simon dreams of climbing up the corporate ladder by earning the praise of his boss (Wallace Shawn) and makes pathetic attempts to flirt with a fellow employee, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), but his persistent meekness terminates his efforts before they can get off the ground. Before long, Simon finds himself confronting a new hire, James Simon (also Eisenberg), who happens to be his precise physical doppelganger, only his behavioral and psychological opposite, brimming with confidence and self-assuredness. At first, James and Simon forge a mutually beneficial friendship, but James quickly sets out systematically dismantling Simon’s already-dim existence.

Image: StudioCanal

Despite the film’s literary inspiration, The Double most resembles Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Both films exhibit pitch-black humor, a grimy retro futurescape, a skittish protagonist whose identity and relatively stable position are threatened, a love story involving a less-than-fully-realized woman whose agency is secondary to the whims of the protagonist, broad corporate satire, and even dysfunctional mother-son relationships. The primary distinction to be made between Gilliam and Ayoade is that The Double‘s take on the possibilities of redemption is even bleaker; Simon is a creep at the best of times (he spends much of the film obsessing over Hannah with the help of a telescope) whose plight is less David vs. Goliath, more Man vs. Himself. The self-annihilating aspect evokes a number of previous touchstones, particularly Fight Club, and while Eisenberg is consistently engaging in both roles, Ayoade doesn’t have anything new to put forward on the subject.

Luckily, Ayoade, unlike nearly every other comic to make the transition into directing, is as interested in crafting a striking aesthetic as he is in smuggling humor into a relentlessly bleak environment. The Double cribs from film noir, music videos, and, yes, Gilliam (an early tracking shot through Simon’s office is a clear, direct Brazil nod) with aplomb, taking particular joy in implying the insidious presence of James long before he actually arrives by nearly always placing Simon off-center. The obsessive attention to detail almost reaches Edgar Wright-levels of craft, and that’s a very encouraging sign for Ayoade’s future.

Image: StudioCanal

Tackling dystopian world-building, absurdist humour, social satire, and a high-concept narrative hook in the space of 85 minutes (excluding credits), The Double can sometimes feel more like a showcase reel for Ayoade’s considerable talents than a cohesive movie on its lonesome. Nevertheless, when it clicks, the film serves as an encouraging reminder that there are still a few genuine stylists left in film comedy.

– Simon Howell

Watch The Double

Now Streaming

Written By

Simon is a sometimes writer and podcaster living in Toronto.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Kidd

    December 24, 2022 at 8:09 am

    I saw this way back in November 2013. At the time, I was totally unaware of Ayoade’s acting career. Here’s my review from back then: https://web.archive.org/web/20160512165135/http://nukemars.com/?p=2777

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook

Trending

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

Wrestling

Don West Don West

Remembering Wrestling Sports Broadcaster Don West

Culture

The Last of Us Infected The Last of Us Infected

The Last of Us Looks for Love in a Hopeless Place with “Infected”

TV

Hear Me Out Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out Never Finds Its Own Voice

Film

Kaleidoscope Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope (2023): How the Newest Hypnotic Netflix Toy Stumbles with its Unique Format

TV

The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness

The Last of Us Begins with the Bleak, Familiar “When You’re Lost in the Darkness”

TV

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Top 5 WWE Wrestlers To Win The 2023 Royal Rumble

Wrestling

Bill Nighy is a Living Marvel in This Kurosawa Remake

Culture

WWE Royal Rumble 1992 WWE Royal Rumble 1992

Why the 1992 WWE Royal Rumble Match is Still The Best

Culture

Sundance 2023: The Eight Must-See Films at the Festival

Culture

maxwell jacob friedman maxwell jacob friedman

MJF and Three Potential First-Time Feuds for 2023 

Culture

When It Melts movie review When It Melts movie review

When It Melts Continues an Important Conversation with Unflinching Pathos

Culture

Magazine Dreams Review Magazine Dreams Review

Magazine Dreams is a Volcanic Study of A Self-consuming Bodybuilder

Culture

Ranking The Chicago Bulls Dynasty Opponents In The ’90s

Culture

WWE sale - Vince McMahon WWE sale - Vince McMahon

The Available Options For A Potential Sale Of WWE

Culture

Fair Play movie review Fair Play movie review

Fair Play Interrogates the Cutthroat Dynamics of Business and Marriage

Culture

Connect