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The Double

2011 | 92 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

The Double


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Theatrical release date

 28 October, 2011

Country of origin

 United States

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The Double


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The Double Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 3, 2011

As a thriller, “The Double” is ridiculously convoluted, spending more time trying to explain motivations and clarify names than it does serving up legitimate armrest-tearing thrills. I’m sure the filmmakers are quite proud of their cat’s cradle of a movie, but what’s lacking is a mounting sense of unrest, a tense acceleration of reveals and attacks, permitting the monkey business collected here a sense of speed to help overcome its unnecessary density. Instead, the feature labors over details as though the C.I.A. is going to use this as a training tool for new recruits, taking a very silly, logic-leaping effort with the utmost seriousness.

Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) is a retired C.I.A. agent pulled back into duty when his nemesis, Russian assassin Cassius, has emerged from the shadows after an extended period of inactivity. Brought in to help the investigation is F.B.I. analyst Ben Geary (Topher Grace), a young man who’s studied Cassius at length, eager to hunt down the elusive killer once and for all. Hitting the dangerous streets of Washington D.C., the partners chase leads and interrogate accomplices (including Stephen Moyer), hoping to learn when Cassius, and his penchant for slitting throats, will strike next. Along the way, Paul becomes close with Ben and his wife (Odette Yustman), fearing that Cassius’s next target will be the new family man, cut down in the prime of his life.

There are countless twists contained within “The Double,” but there’s one that needs to be addressed. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a spoiler since it occurs in the first act of the feature. However, those sensitive to the disclosure of intimate plot information should look away now. Ready? Paul is Cassius. While it reads like a major reveal, “The Double” merely uses the surprise as an appetizer, attempting to subvert the norm for thriller cinema by positioning what’s normally a climactic bang up front, with co-writer/director Michael Brandt announcing in the opening reel that his effort won’t be easily decoded. It’s a neat left turn, launching the feature as something more than a simple chase effort. It places the hunted into the hunt, studying Paul as he gradually accepts the absurd turn of fate, deciding if he should kill Ben or try to kick him off the investigation through subtle discouragement.

The initial flicker of creativity is quickly snuffed out by an anxious screenplay, which tries to introduce a procedural tone to the plot, having Ben work out the mission through a careful study of the evidence (including Cassius’s murder weapon: razor wire coiled into his wristwatch). To perk things up, Brandt has a few chase sequences scattered throughout the film, bashing faces and cars as Paul tries to forcibly cool interest in his alter ego, while also tracking an enigmatic Russian character -- another piece of the puzzle that helps to bog down “The Double” in tedious details. It’s a picture of constant explanation, stitching together a parachute after it’s already jumped out of the plane. The effect is wearying, with much of the movie attempting to convince the audience there’s an incredible intensity to the story and its numerous surprises. “The Double” overheats quickly, never recovering from the initial alarm of Paul’s true identity.

The best compliment I can pay “The Double” is that at least Richard Gere seems to believe everything the script offers. Playing with his usual blinky tenacity, the actor is entertaining in the duplicitous role, always willing to leap into the action with both hands, creating plausible discomfort as Paul wrestles with a few possibly gruesome outcomes to the case. Grace is more troublesome as the green investigator, with his natural youthful appearance and squeaky voice hurting his effort to inhabit a role of developing government agent defense. Grace plays the role adequately, but he’s seldom believable. Gere eyelashes him right off the screen.

“The Double” packs in plenty of additional twists as Paul and Ben stumble to their end game. In fact, there are so many reveals and connections, Brandt doesn’t exactly know how to process the influx of exposure, creating an eye-crossing conclusion that comes dangerously to complete failure. The ending reinforces how exhaustively lackluster the picture is, but at least it has the nerve to climax with a blast of stupidity, playing into the theme of duality. Better to leave the audience more baffled than bored.

Starring: Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen, Stephen Moyer, Odette Annable, Stana Katic
Director: Michael Brandt

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