Directed by Richard Ayoade, Written By Richard Ayoade (Screenplay), Fyodor Dostoyevsky (novel).
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn
What a great freaking film. I am of the firm belief that this is one of the very best movies released this year. I instantly wanted to see it again as soon as the perpetually intriguing final scene ended the movie. The entire movie simply flew by, adding to my desperation to watch it through again. So I waited, until I couldn’t any longer, and gave this unique film a second spin, followed by a third, and now a fourth.
This here is one hell of a puzzle of a movie, while being reminiscent of the very best aspects of Brazil and to a lesser extent, The Tenant. However, neither of those films mentioned presented such a puzzle to solve; most prominently, the beginning and final scene of this film that begs on its hands and knees to be pieced together. Each time I see the ending, I find myself sitting in silence, my head whirling, a tornado wreaking havoc in my temporal lobe as I desperately try to piece together the events that lead to such a climactic and confronting ending. No wonder then that this is a film that seems to have polarised audiences, with wildly varying reviews and opinions, ranging from complaints that it is too similar to Brazil (I am here to tell you now: it simply isn’t) or that it doesn’t make any sense; to extremely positive reviews praising the endless positive elements dotted throughout.
I guess I can see why some would compare this movie to Brazil; the colour palettes are similar (grey, grey and just a bit more grey), the world and workplace is vaguely similar, and Simon James finds himself constantly bewildered and ignored in a similar way to Sam Lowry. But once the ‘double’ aspect comes into play, this turns into a different movie entirely, leaving Brazil as a speck in the rear-view mirror. Additionally, the concept of the lead character having a doppelgänger is handled deftly, with apparent ease as the movie seamlessly flows from scene to scene. Though sporting a somewhat similar premise to a movie also from this year, Enemy by Denis Villeneuve, the two could not be more different if they intentionally tried.
Personally, I feel I must praise Richard Ayoade’s (best known for his character ‘Moss’ from The IT Crowd) work-ethic in bringing this classic Dostoyevsky story to the screen, not to mention the effortless way he has managed to adapt the classical story to belong perfectly within a modern context. Considering the original text is from the 18th century, translated from Russian, I feel that this is a major accomplishment alone.
Everything is not as it seems in this extremely surreal word that Ayoade has created; and this surreal feeling is dramatically emphasised by several unique shots, one of which I believe is the key to solving this riddle of a film. It is a shot that features both near the start and near the end of the film, shooting the same part of the set from the exact same angle. This is yet another slice of divine pizza that makes this film such a fun puzzle to solve. The movie is so well made, scripted and acted, that it is no chore at all to watch the film multiple times; especially of course if you are as determined to solve the puzzle for yourself as I am.
Jesse Eisenberg is the key to making this such a fun film to watch over and over. He may have turned in some average efforts in the past, but in addition to Night Moves, he has nailed two roles with a giant fucker of a hammer this year. What makes his performance in The Double so terrific and convincing is the way he plays his original self, as opposed to his Double. If it wasn’t the same actor, you would not believe that the same man is playing both parts, as despite the two obviously looking identical, Jesse plays them very differently, with each having his own unique personality and quirks. Each has his own motives, and to some extent, the original Simon James sees personality traits in his double James Simon (a nice little piece of writing there that brought a smile to my face – the simple reversing of surname and forename) that he seems to lack in his everyday life at work, in life. However, when (the double) James Simon’s motives become more clear as the movie marches forward, the whole plot gets turned sideways and upside-down yet again, adding yet another layer to this infinitely fascinating flick.
There is no doubt that this is a dark movie, there are a few spurts of dark humour that had me laughing out loud, but it is extremely gripping for the entire run-time. I have not seen Ayoade’s debut feature Submarine, but I now feel I must. I enjoyed the way this was shot, with very creative camera angles and surreal scenes littered throughout, not to mention the superbly written screenplay and script. I don’t think I need to point out that I highly recommended this film… To anyone who likes their movies surreal, as if it was created in another dimension; in addition to it being thought-provoking beyond belief, leaving you somewhat flabbergasted at first glance.
Do I think that I have solved the riddle? Personally, I think I am very close. Each viewing adds a piece to the 1,500 piece puzzle, and this most recent viewing has allowed a theory to bubble up from my cranium. I am confident that I have found my own spin on this movie; though of course to confirm this, I must watch it again. Well, as I think I have established, this is no problem for me! I could watch this flick ten times over and not get sick of its many eccentric qualities, with each viewing revealing more absurdities.
4.5/5 – I have a slight, tiny inkling that this review will tell you if this movie is for you or not. If you think that it is, get your arse into gear and watch this masterpiece, as many times as you can!! If you think in any way similar to myself, you will find yourself in movie-bliss. One of the most unique films I have ever seen.
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I just watched this recently on Netflix (gads I love that thing), never having heard of it before. It didn’t take too long before it’s surreal began to feel vaguely familiar. Did a quick search and, of course, good ol’ Uncle Fyodor.
I liked it and all but I need to watch it again…I’m ashamed to confess but I fell asleep at the end and I haven’t had the opportunity (motivation?) to revisit for the full conclusion.
Fantastic review, as always, EM.
Yep, Fyodor did indeed leave us with several masterpieces of writing; perhaps the best of his time. I think this is the best adaptation of the few that have been attempted over the years.
Egads, you fell asleep?!! =P Hehe, when that urge hits you to watch it again, you’ll see what I mean about the puzzle that the entire movie is, not to mention the fantastic ending.
Thanks so much for the kind words mate, and thanks for reading/commenting. As always, it is much appreciated =)