In only his second film as director Richard Ayoade follows up Submarine with The Double, an indie thriller drenched in noir, starring not one but two Jesse Eisenberg’s, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor and James Fox. Eisenberg’s Simon is simply an average, awkward, quiet office worker until a new employee arrives who is practically his twin, yet much more confident, charismatic and better at talking to women; who throws Simon’s life into turmoil.
Eisenberg has played awkward characters in practically every situation and context you can think of, from Columbus in Zombieland to Zuckerberg in The Social Network (he’s also played very confident characters but the social awkwardness seems to stick with him), but this takes that awkward quality and pushes it in a completely different direction. The great quality of his performance has a lot to do with playing two characters that are polar opposites and doing both flawlessly, it’s a pleasure to watch. Alongside Mia Wasikowska who does a great job of the slightly mysterious, distant and cold love interest, this actress thrives in the indie world and though her forays into major film are of an equal quality, it’s in this smaller environment that she takes on characters that display her talent. The rest of the cast is all fairly secondary but there’s some great smaller parts that give a kick to the black comedy aspect of the film, particularly Craig Roberts, Chris O’Dowd, Sally Hawkins and Kobna-Holdbrook Smith all have moments that are perfectly written and delivered that are wonderful.
Ayoade has taken a story written in the 19th century by Dostoyevsky and turned it into something modern, neo-noir and yet with a feeling of being old-fashioned, creating what is a brilliant screenplay that works a charm. The story is wholly gripping, fascinating, tense and suspenseful, it manages to be not altogether unpredictable but the quality is so high that it keeps you glued to what’s happening and without pause to second guess what the end result might be. The pace gets faster as you go along to heighten the tension, while creating an atmosphere that is undeniably dark but without becoming too sad or melancholy due to the fantastic elements of black comedy.
This is a stunning film, completely understated and underappreciated, Ayoade has proved himself so much more than just Moss from The IT Crowd, and ALMOST gained a pardon for his part in the unbelievably awful film The Watch. It’s gripping and utterly interesting, with a great cast and one to definitely recommend.