HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Double
HTS Overall Score:84.5
You ever watch a movie where it feels more surreal than real? As if you’re the one slowly going insane and not the viewer? “The Double” takes a page from the original novel written by Dostoyevsky and turns it into a world all its own. The story is not something new, and wasn’t even new in Dostoyevsky’s days, but it still works in this modern age, the story of a man who meets his true antithesis, his exact mirror image reversed on itself. Directed by the very deadpan touch of Richard Ayoade (best known from the British version of “The Office” and the Alien in “The Watch”) the tale is billed as a dark comedy, but ends up being just plain dark. There is certain comedic aspects thrown in there, but in such a dark and dry way that they are almost imperceptible except to the experienced art house fan. Weirdly self-aware, and dramatically creepy “The Double” chronicles a very schizoid take on one Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), a very meek and mild mannered man, and his struggles with a doppelganger named James Simon (also played by Jesse Eisenberg).
Simon is about as weak and limp wristed as they come, stuck in an office job doing data entry, he’s passed over by everyone he works with , shafted by his love interest and generally invisible to everyone around him. Pining over the beautiful Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), he longs for a way to break out of his isolation and be recognized by somebody, anybody. This all changes when a new worker shows up at his office in the form of his exact lookalike, one James Simon. James is the literal reverse image of Simon, confident, powerfully spoken and more charisma than you can shake a stick at. Befriending Simon, the new man in the office soon starts to take advantage of his mild and meek mannered personality, taking over his love interest, his job and the attention that Simon so desperately craves. Soon James has the entire world eating out of his hand and treating Simon with cruelty and a general lack of pity. What seemed like an opportunity for Simon has turned into a living hell as everyone sides with the blackmailing James, further solidifying Simon’s belief that his is invisible.
As James and Simon become intricately intertwined the story takes a darker dive and soon things become a little bit clearer as you see that there is more similarity between the two men than previously thought. Even Hannah has got some secrets that soon come to light and start to make the viewer question just what is going on and just what is being “taught” in the film, so to speak.
“The Double” is a unique combination of a simply exquisite visual story, but a frustratingly opaque on in terms of the actual scripted story. To say that Richard Ayoade has done a superb job with the photography would be an understatement. The film is literally bathed in the bleak and desperate overtones of the novel, but with a decidedly old fashioned, yet almost futuristic presence on camera. Every shot is impeccable and would make even the most cynical art house fanatic drool with envy over the sumptuous detail haunting beauty in the somber imagery. Fog, darkness and dimly lit factories create a mood that haunts and intrigues the viewer and disassociates Simon’s existence from the rest of reality.
As mentioned, the story is a bit of a frustrating mess as the seemingly simple plot shifts dramatically into becoming an opaque mess, leaving plot ends unwrapped and shifting from theory to theory as if the viewer is expected to keep up with every schizoid plot shift. Is Simon and James the same person? In one moment you believe they are, then the next that seems to be proven wrong. Even the very existence of the plotline seems to contradict itself in many ways. It’s as if Ayoade wanted to be as opaque as possible in order to let the ambiance of the film take front and center without the distraction of coherence or adherence to standard storytelling devices. It’s entertaining and simply mesmerizing as a visual device, but the plot inconsistencies and lack of cohesion turned this from what could have been a masterpiece to just an intriguing work of art.
Rated R for language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=25385[/img]Shot and transferred in 1.85:1 “The Double” looks superb, even amidst the very eerie and dark shooting style. Shot completely on film it has a beautiful texture to it, lightly grained, but still just enough to give those dark shots a sort of hazy surreal feel to them. The colors are naturally a bit desaturated and the colors that do pop through tend to be neon coated and like the back door of a Chinese restaurant in the filthy side of town. Detail is still razor sharp and show incredible clarity both in the close ups and wider angled shots. The film is literally BATHED in shadows so the black levels holding up were paramount, and do they ever hold up. There is not a scene that goes by where you feel shrouded in the macabre and the sensation of being swallowed up in the pitch black, but still there is no sign of crush and no sign of washed out blacks, as everything intricately detailed in all the right places. Simply superb, the only feature that may even be a slight drop is the occasional softness during Simon/James’ work environment which robs us of a few instances of fine detail.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=25393[/img]The single lone 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just about dead on perfect, with a track that revels in perfect replication and fine-tuned detail, all the while just saturated with some deeeeeeeeeeep and throbbing bass. For a movie that isn’t really an action movie this is one of the most incredible tracks I’ve heard in a long time. The dialogue is great, as you can guess from the score, but it’s not just the dialogue that makes this track so great. The ambiance and tone of the movie just seeps into every pore and every cranny of the film, perfectly replicating every single minute auditory tone to perfection. The sound of rushing water roars and throbs around the viewer, every single sound in the film tends to be amplified to the nth degree as if the character is in a void where only that one single sound has any purpose, any meaning in that tight existence. The drops of water hitting the floor are singled out and focused on, echoing and splashing inside the dirty bathroom. The sounds of a train as incredible as you can hear the creak and the stretching of the metal frame, the rustle of fabric against fabric and even the sound of a shoe as it scrapes lazily across the floor to say nothing about the sheer ferocity of the LFE channel. LFE is fierce and aggressive as it digs down deeper than most other tracks even try to get and with incredible results. The score pules and pressurizes the whole room with dread and power and even lends itself to the rush and roar of traffic, or the shocking slam of an iron door.
• Cast and Characters
• Creating "The Double" : The Story and Design
• Behind the Scenes Comparisons
• Interview With Director Richard Ayoade
• Theatrical Trailer
• AXS TV: A Look at "The Double"
“The Double” is a bit of a contradiction, as it is one of the most brilliantly shot and staged dramas that I have ever seen, but carries with it a shell of a script that tries too hard to be intelligent by trying to make the viewer guess and feel confused. I loved the visual storytelling and the cinematography, but the script made me feel as if the visual tricks were just a bit hollow and lacking any real conviction. Still the video is great and the audio is simply fantastic, so if you’re an art house fan I’d give this one a spin, because it’s very much a film worth watching, even if you find you don’t enjoy it.
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn
Directed by: Richard Ayoade
Written by: Richard Ayoade,
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Blu-ray Release Date: August 26th, 2014
Buy The Double Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: For the Art House Fans
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