The IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade returns to the directors chair with the The Double, an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 19th century novel, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska. Ayoade burst onto the filmmaking scene with the quirky alternative teen love story, Submarine, and although his latest flick heads in a somewhat darker, more mysterious direction, the funny man has delivered a clever, Terry Gilliam-like spectacle that delivers on the weird, wonderful and creepy in an intriguing 93 minutes of film.
Set in a future utopia, Simon James (Eisenberg) is a nobody. Shy, lonely and unnoticed, Simon mumbles his way through life in an extremely unextraordinary fashion. This all changes, however, when he comes across his doppelganger, aptly named James Simon (Eisenberg), who slowly but surely takes over Simon’s life. James is everything Simon hopes to be: assured, confident and successful – this drives Simon closer and closer to the edge, as his double not only overshadows him at work, but steals the woman he adores, Mia (Wasikowska).
Although it is certainly not an original idea, The Double’s greatest strength is that it leaves enough doubt in the audiences mind as to what has actually happened to make it not just a freaky story, but a compelling watch. James’ whole existence is thrown into question with a head scratch worthy ending that throws it open to interpretation – is it real, imaginary, or has Simon just gone completely mad? Its eerie nature and nightmarish appearance – with little lighting and fog filled streets – adds to the films already creepy mystique. Ayoade’s dry wit, that made Submarine such a funny watch, added the all important comedic touch, supported in excellent fashion by the impressive Eisenberg who played both characters, Simon and James, to a tee – seeming equally comfortable as either person.
Possibly too strange for some, there is no denying this is a daring piece of cinema from the British director. Not as easily lovable as his debut feature, nor as funny, The Double does take a bit of time to get going, but it is an impressive, intelligent follow-up from Ayoade, leaving us wanting more.