The Double is Richard Ayoade’s (aka Moss from The IT Crowd) second feature film after his impressive and widely acclaimed 2010 debut Submarine. In The Double, Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, a young employee at a big company (we never learn what exactly it does). He is shy, mumbles a lot (like most Jesse Eisenberg characters) and no one seems to notice him. He blends in perfectly. Hopelessly in love with Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), the copy girl who works in his office, but too scared to approach her, he stalks her, watching her through a telescope from his apartment. So far so bad, but things take a turn for the worse (and strange) when a new employee appears in the office. James is everything Simon wants to be: confident, successful, popular and good with women. Oh, and there is the small matter that James looks 100% identical to Simon (which no one notices, as they hadn’t bothered to look at the latter). From then on, the film centres on the love-hate relationship between these two polar opposite characters, who essentially the same (not just physically), which begins as friendship of sorts, in which they help each other out, until James’ true, dark nature is revealed.
Tonally, The Double is a major departure from the charm and quirkiness ofSubmarine towards a dark, almost gothic fantasy world. In other words, it’s closer to Terry Gilliam than Wes Anderson. Based on a novel by Dostoevsky (but the subject matter of identity and paranoia also inevitably invokes the great science-fiction writer Philip K Dick), The Double creates a very distinct world of its own into which the audience is thrown right from the beginning. The film is very rich in terms of visuals, but it is the creative and effective use of sound that is most striking. Subways, clocks, jukeboxes or blenders all become incredibly loud, drowning out all other sounds whenever Simon feels particularly agitated, creating a sense of paranoia and oppression.
The only criticism one could aim at The Double is that none of the characters are likeable, making it difficult to love the film, particularly in its darker moments. However, the film is not without humour. Ayoade’s comedic talent shines through in frequent funny and/or absurd situations, coming primarily from the impressive supporting cast (virtually every cast member of Submarine has a cameo appearance, as does Ayoade’s IT Crowd co-star Chris O’Dowd). Mia Wasikowska (who doesn’t have too much to do), Jesse Eisenberg (who manages the difficult feat of having chemistry with himself) carry the drama with strong performances.
The Double thusfirmly establishes Richard Ayoade as one of the most interesting and original up-and-coming voices in British cinema, and I for one can’t wait to see what he does next.