Ever since the great show The IT Crowd debuted, the quirky Richard Ayoade has been one of my favorite talents working. Ayoade really has always personified his quirky charm, whether it’s in a small role in other television shows like The Mighty Boosh, or starting in mainstream comedies, like the underappreciated The Watch. Making Ayoade even more impressive has been his results behind the camera and penning scripts.
After doing a great job directing an Artic Monkey’s concert with Arctic Monkeys at the Apollo and several other music videos, Ayoade finally got a chance to show his talent. His directorial debut Submarine, which he also wrote, has its fair share of fans and detractors. Personally, Submarine was fantastic, bringing up a lot of great themes that coming of age films before it have never even touched. Pair that with some big laughs and Alex Turner’s fantastic soundtrack, and Submarine may just be my favorite film of the decade so far. Due to this, my expectations for his follow-up The Double were fairly high. With his talents behind the camera combined with the fantastic Jesse Eisenberg on screen, it was apparent that the product would be great. Aside from a few missteps, The Double is a great follow-up for Richard Ayoade
The Double follows a shy clerk in a government agency whose life takes a turn once he realizes the new co-worker is a physical copy of him, except with an opposite personality.
From a visual perspective, The Double is one of the most impressive looking films of recent memory. Ayoade in the director’s chair really outdoes himself, with a look that is filled with its own little quirks, making it just one of the most unique dystopian worlds in film. The visuals have a sort of understated appearance, which really helps to build a great sense of mood throughout the film and matches the story perfectly.
Helping create the great visuals is cinematographer Erik Wilson, who Ayoade previously collaborated with on Submarine. While many do not consider Wilson in the running for best cinematographers, he seems to show a great future in the industry with another fantastic effort here. Wilson creates some of the most memorable shots of the year so far, with quite a few shots being quite haunting. Those shots compiled together with the talented Andrew Hewitt’s music really helps establishing a diverse yet constantly haunting appearance.
Not only does Ayoade really thrive when it comes to creating a great visual style, but also managing the tone of the film. The Double is a tricky film in a lot of ways, because its very much a dark comedy and a thriller at the same time. Thankfully, Ayoade is up for the challenging task, with The Double failing to strike a false moment. The tone of the film always feels consistent with itself, while being diverse in a lot of ways.
As far as performances go, there is one clear leader among the pack. Jesse Eisenberg in the early stages of his career was considered Michael Cera-light, but in my opinion has become one of the best young actors working today. Eisenberg really owns this film, playing the dual roles of Simon and James. Both personalities match what he has done so far in his career perfectly. One being an awkward introvert and the other other being an arrogant douche.
Even with both personality types being a staple in his repertoire, Eisenberg is able to add to each to make his performance feel fresh. The introvert Simon is far more thoughtful, with his descent into madness with the arrival of James making this an interesting character. James on the other hand gets to play the arrogance up, while also being quite haunting due to his undefined intentions.
Surrounding Eisenberg is an excellent supporting cast as well. Mia Waikowska does a respectable job in her role as the love interest. Her talents lend well here, as she creates a love interest whose insecurities make her more interesting than the average love interest. More minor roles in the film are filled up by great character actors. Talents like Sally Hawkins, Chris O’Dowd, Craig Roberts, Wallace Shawn, and Noah Taylor all do a great job with their respective roles.
Perhaps the best quality of the film is the screenplay. Ayoade teamed up with Avi Korine to create a very layered story, with a lot of symbolism and other aspects that really made me think about the film. Not only that, but they create a story that has a fair share of twists and turns and fantastic dialogue, with the same kind of snappy lines that made me love Ayoade’s Submarine so much.
The lone major flaw with the film was one that was the difference between this film being really good or great. For me at least, The Double lacked a certain dramatic weight to make this film and its thematic content really hit home. The ending was very well executed, and ended in a great way, but lacked that dramatic punch that would have made the ending and the film itself a more memorable flick.
The Double also has a few minor problems throughout. The beginning of the film takes some time to get into it. The first ten or fifteenth minutes, while not bad, are lacking in comparison to the rest of the film. Also, Ayoade creates such a unique landscape that it felt like some more information on said landscape would have been a great addition, clearing up some questions brought up in the third act.
Even with a few issues, Richard Ayoade’s The Double is one of the more captivating films of the year so far, and more proof of his talents behind the camera. Do yourself a favor and check out this flick along with fantastic directorial debut Submarine for a great double feature.
Take a Drink: anytime a character does
Take a Drink: for every “what the fuck” moment
Do a Shot: whenever a recognizable face pops up