Based on a Dostoevsky novella, but coming on like a Kafka and coke-induced hellish hallucination, The Double is one of those films that gets inside your head on an endless loop and just won’t go away.
It’s also one of those films that creates its own little (nightmarish) world and inhabits it absolutely. In this case it’s a noir world of shadows and outdated technology where people live in dowdy rather than splendid isolation.
Like the world itself, our everyman hero, Simon (Jesse Eisenberg on splendid form) is downtrodden and unremarkable. He works in an anonymous (and very dark) office where even the security guard doesn’t remember him although he sees him every day. Simon’s life is humdrum and relentlessly routine, the only bright spots in his existence are his glancing encounters with Hannah (an also excellent Mia Wasikowska), the photocopier girl, but being shy Simon never seems to build up the courage to actually speak to her.
Then his life is changed forever by the arrival of James, a new worker at the office who is the spitting image of Simon (Eisenberg again), but this ‘double’ is his polar opposite; outgoing, charming, dashing even and he starts to take over Simon’s entire life. Not only does he steal Hannah from under Simon’s nose, he also steals his work and even contrives to bribe Simon into letting him use his apartment for his many sexual conquests. There’s little Simon can do but seethe in futile frustration, but the seeds of a plot to get rid of this interloper are beginning to sprout in Simon’s mind – it seems the wriggling worm is about to get off the hook and turn.
Written and directed by Richard Ayoade (the IT Crowd) The Double builds its curious ‘other’ world with great confidence and inhabits it convincingly, and even though the ending is ambiguous and therefore a slight cop out, what goes before is self-assured and has a single-mindedness that is admirable.
Eisenberg manages to make Simon and James distinct and easily identifiable – even when in the same frame – while Wasikowska imbues Hannah with quiet dignity and a delicacy that seems far too fragile for the repressive atmosphere in which she lives.