So we've got another film from my top 10 most anticipated of 2014 list to cover, this time the film being Richard Ayoade's The Double. Based off of Dostoyevsky's novella of the same name, this looked to be one of the more unique films that would be released this year and the idea of pairing up Richard Ayoade with Jesse Eisenberg felt like a match made in heaven. Thankfully, the overall film matches this idea creating one of the most unique and engaging films that will be released this year.
The plot concerns Simon James, an office worker in an unidentified state who is constantly ignored, belittled and taken advantage of by everyone he meets. Then one day a new worker arrives, James Simon, who is the exact duplicate of him except where Simon is more introverted and nobody pays any attention to him, James is very outgoing and is able to impress everyone he meets, basically being the exact opposite of Simon, and this slowly begins to unravel the mind of Simon. What I love is that it takes a good half an hour for James to be introduced in the film, letting the audience fully immerse themselves in the life of Simon, letting you know just how sad and lonely his life is. In fact, a moment that should be creepy (Simon watching his love interest through a telescope in his flat) really shows the sad existence of Simon, doing that was the only sense of joy that he got from day to day life which really makes the audience empathise with him. This is also highlighted by the fact that virtually no-one notices that Simon and James are identical in appearance because of how little attention they pay to Simon, even when they're looking right at him. This helps show how easy it is for James to take over Simon's life and why people are more inclined to believe James over Simon. The film doesn't just have these dark elements though, there are a few elements of dark humour in the film with a lot of moments in the film giving a very strong vibe of Brazil. A lot of this is helped by the world of the film getting very little explanation with the audience being expected to accept this world where suicide is incredibly common and an omnipresent figure, The Colonel, looms over all with the vague nature of these elements serving to make the film all the more engaging.
A major reason why the film works so well is because of Jesse Eisenberg. He gives the performance of his career as Simon and James. With Simon, he brings across this brilliant meekness through how quiet his voice is and shows just how uncomfortable he is throughout the entire film, which is one of the main reasons why it is so easy for him to be ignored and pushed over whilst also showing the increasing mental instability that he feels throughout the course of the film. Whilst playing James though, his entire body language very subtly changes to let you know just how confident he is and that he is someone that demands attention. He also shows a very threatening side whilst playing James, showing that he is constantly one step ahead of Simon, thinking about everything heavily in advance and using the identical nature of him and Simon to his advantage. I have to say, if Eisenberg is even half as good as Lex Luthor as he is in this then the character is in safe hands. Mia Wasikowska gives a good performance as Hannah, working brilliantly with Eisenberg and bringing across this haunting beauty that lets you know why Simon is after her so badly, whilst also showing a sense of stress and guilt over the events that happen in the film. Wallace Shawn, Tim Key and Phyllis Somerville do great work in small roles and the figure of The Colonel is given a great sense of gravitas through being played by James Fox. There are also a lot of small roles in the film given to people that Ayoade has worked with in the past with Chris Morris and Chris O'Dowd from The IT Crowd and Yasmin Page, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Craig Roberts, Gemma Chan and Paddy Considine from Submarine having small roles in the film with the excellent cast for really small roles adding to the weight of the film.
The technical aspect of the film is incredible as well. Ayoade's direction effectively shows the declining state of Simon, aided by a brilliant score but the production design is the standout in this area. The whole film has this really dark and dingy quality throughout, but deliberately, creating a really depressing environment which helps add to the dark tone of the film whilst also further showing some elements of inspiration from Brazil. This is helped by the sound design which emphasises the sound of the trains and the machines which, in some cases, drowns out Simon, further showing how the world just ignores him. Along with this are the seamless effects used to put Simon and James in the same scene, with the lighting in these scenes being key to why the effects are so good.
Overall, The Double is a really interesting, unique film. The plot has great elements of sympathy and humour, the production design and direction is excellent and it is all anchored together by an incredible performance from Jesse Eisenberg. If you get the chance, I highly recommend that you check out The Double.
My Rating: 5/5