The Double is the second feature film from Richard Ayoade, who made the superb Submarine and stars Jesse Eisenberg.
This is another personal story where we feel as if we are almost voyeurs overseeing the characters. Submarine was a little like this where the director can create a personal connection with the viewer and, whether you like the characters or not, you feel compelled to take the journey with them. As it stands, none of the characters are particularly likeable here! Interesting too, that it’s hard to see where or when the film is based. It feels slightly futuristic, with the faceless work drones and the oppressive dystopian run down flats and yet, vinyl records are played and regular subway trains.
The story follows timid and passive Simon James, a data cruncher for a company run by a perfectly cast James Fox. Simon’s immediate boss is Papadopolous, who ignores his suggestions and who’s primary role is to motivate the staff, ironically. Simon is attracted to a Hannah who works in the photocopying dept and happens to live opposite him. Simon sometimes watches her through a telescope and never has the confidence to speak to her. In walks new recruit James Simon, who is everything Simon isn’t and happens to look identical – a doppleganger. James begins to take over Simon’s life, handing in reports at work and getting all the credit, moving in on Hannah and seducing another girl in the process. Simon ultimately gets fired and plans to commit suicide, claiming he is a ghost, being seen through by everyone. I should add, at the beginning, he loses his ID badge and a humorous conversation plays out with Chris Morris playing an exec saying that Simon doesn’t exist because he isn’t in the system, he’s not in the system because he doesn’t have a card, he doesn’t have a card, well you can see where this is going.
Jessie plays both Simon and James very well. He shows each character and even the way he stands says which one he is playing, despite them both wearing a boxy loose suit that doesn’t fit. He manages to play both of them with subtle facial differences showing the confidence of the one and the introvert of the other.
It’s an excellent film, with a stark, mechanical backdrop with no natural light, no location and no time. The soundtrack is equally captivating with Japanese songs and a brooding orchestral score.