I’ve always had a slight fascination with the doppelganger concept, It’s probably an extension of my more intense fascination with shape-shifters in general, and this year there were two movies that came out directly concerning doppelgangers.
Earlier in the year it was Enemy (2013) with Jake Gyllenhaal and based on a Portuguese novel called, “The Duplicated Man,” but according to Wikipedia, “It was translated into English and published as The Double in 2004.” Now we have The Double (2013) another “double-goer” flick this time with Jesse Eisenberg and another that was also based on a novel, an 1846/1866 Russian one by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
I never saw Gyllenhaal’s (I don’t know, trailer didn’t really grab me, I guess) but there was something about Eisenberg’s that gave me the itch to want to see it. And, well, here we are, me writing this review, you reading it.
The Double, at first glance, feels like Terry Gilliam-lite, or Gilliam-eseque, take your pick, with the backdrop being this neither here nor there urban landscape that has a very retro-vibe, but doesn’t feel like anything legitimately retro I’m familiar with, which is why I say it feels rather Gilliam-inspired.
The movie focuses on Simon James (Eisenberg) who’s this unnoticeable cog in this corporation that you never find out what exactly they do, but that’s all right because the specifics of which aren’t really relevant to the tale, it could be any kind of desk job for any kind of corporation. The point being James is a ghost in his own life and its his interactions with the people at work that are the focus. He’s not really a noticeable person, even told so by his co-worker, Harris (Noah Tayler), at one point in the movie and when he is noticed he’s pushed around and stepped on by Life. This problem gets so bad that when he’s supposed to show up at a mandatory function the security guard (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith) escorts him out because he’s not on the list, despite having worked for this corporation for seven years.
He’s also got a crush on co-worker, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), who just so happens to live in the building opposite his on the other side of the street. In good ol’ Hitchcockian fashion (without all the murder) he peeps on her nightly with his telescope.
But it’s after that aforementioned gathering he was thrown out of that his doppelganger shows up just as he’s walking up to his building; the man walks quickly past him and heads up to the apartment over Hannah’s.
The next day at work a new employee is introduced to every one—James Simon! The really weird thing is no one seems to notice he looks exactly like Simon James. It’s not until Simon J literally points it out to Harris that the doppelganger is noticed, and even then Harris doesn’t seem all that shocked or impressed.
Like with most doppelganger movies (are they any more than these two?) the double seeks to take over the life of the original at a certain point. James S is everything Simon J wishes he were, he’s assertive, he’s smooth with the chicks and most importantly comfortable in his own skin.
There is no explanation given as to why Simon’s double has “materialized,” I didn’t really expect one either; he just is and has to be dealt with. But Simon J comes up with a rather ingenious plan to rid himself of him while at the same time, and probably unknowingly, turning himself into less of a ghost.
I’m not all that familiar with Eisenberg’s work, having only seen him in Zombieland (2009), but he’s a pretty damn good actor as both Simone and the doppelganger. The chick that played Hannah, Mia Wasikowska, I’ve never seen before, but, man-oh-man, she reminded me a lot of Meg Tilly. Her British accent slips through from time to time in this movie.
Magnolia Home Entertainment released The Double this past August 26th on separate DVD and blu-ray editions, with the same extra features on both. General specs for the blu are as follows: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen transfer looks appropriately gorgeous. Audio configuration comes in the form of English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
As for extras:
- Creating “The Double:” The Story and Design (4:16)
- Cast and Characters (4:00)
- Behind the Scenes Comparisons (4:25)
- Interview with Writer / Director Richard Ayoade (6:22)
- AXS TV: A Look at “The Double” (3:02)
The first extra I looked at was the interview with the director and was surprised to see it was the guy from Ben Stiller’s alien-in-the-suburbs comedy, The Watch (2012). I didn’t care for the movie personally, but Richard Ayoade was a highlight. I had no idea he was also a director. He talks up the plot, the characters, the source material, etc., for this featurette. All the other features are pretty standard with the Behind The Scenes Comparisons being my favorite as it shows the finished product in a small box in the corner and the rest of the screen taken up with how they actually filmed it, included Eisenberg doing double passes as Simon and then as James.