Mark Reviews Movies

The Double


1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Michael Brandt

Cast: Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen, Odette Yustman, Tamer Hassan, Stephen Moyer

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images and language)

Running Time: 1:38

Release Date: 10/28/11 (limited); 11/4/11 (wider)

Bookmark and Share     Become a fan on Facebook Become a fan on Facebook     Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Review by Mark Dujsik | November 3, 2011

There are a multitude of questions that arise from The Double, which is ironic, given that the movie's entire attempt at tension comes from the fact that the screenplay by director Michael Brandt and Derek Haas reveals the identity of one of its central villains fairly early into the story. Most of them are, of course, nitpicky plot holes, like how unlikely it seems that government intelligence and law enforcement agencies would apparently forego background checks that would prevent the entire plot from unfolding long before it actually starts.

Then, though, there are the bigger ones, such as evidently allowing the character who turns out to be the main baddie simply walk away without any repercussions. It's perhaps indicative of the mood of distrust in the establishment pervading the country at this moment in time (nothing new, for sure) that the inciting incident—the crime with which the bad guy gets off scot-free—is the murder of United States Senator. With approval ratings as low as they are (and, historically, usually are, really), the movie's ultimate philosophy on the matter seems to be, "What's one less member of Congress, anyway?"

Otherwise, Brandt's thriller doesn't have much of a connection to the present, let alone reality. It's more a regression to Cold War paranoia, specifically of the 1980s (The movie's electric guitar score during the climactic cat-and-mouse chase definitely has the quality of seeming to have been pulled out of a time capsule), which saw clandestine agents of a foreign power hiding in plain sight, determined to bring everything down from within. The protagonists here are CIA and FBI agents, and even the antagonists are Russian. In keeping with the movie's suspicious tone, the twain not only meet but also are free to co-exist.

Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) has retired and begun to live a normal life. We know this because he attends little league baseball games down the street from his house (The dialogue between him and a mother in the crowd comes off unintentionally creepy) and is surprised when his old boss Tom Highland (Martin Sheen), director of the CIA, turns up in his home, waiting for Paul in the dark. During his tenure at the agency, Paul was an expert on a Soviet assassin codenamed "Cassius" (Highland breaks the cardinal rule of codenames (and the fourth wall, since, in theory, every agent in the room should know this information) by explaining that the name comes from one of the plotters against Julius Caesar), and the murder of the Senator has all the hallmarks of a Cassius job.

Paul is convinced that Cassius is dead, so this must be a copycat killing. His new partner Ben Geary (Topher Grace), a rookie FBI agent who wrote his thesis on the Cassius assassinations, thinks otherwise. As per usual, Paul is skeptical of the new guy, and Ben goes on and on about how much he admires Paul. There's a scene where Paul questions Ben's knowledge, and naturally, Ben passes with flying colors so that Paul can start his new partnership with slightly less doubt.

Without revealing too many specifics, Brandt and Haas uncover Cassius' true identity near the beginning of Paul and Ben's investigation after the two interview Brutus (Stephen Moyer, wearing some really unconvincing scar makeup), a former Cassius student now in an isolated prison cell. A flashback showing how Cassius trained his assassins, resulting in 12 people diving over a table to kill each other, is amusing in its deviousness, though the lack of security that allows a hardened murderer to escape from a hospital by walking out the back door is one of many moments in the movie that push the suspension of disbelief past its limits.

The primary gag is one of dramatic irony. Only one character and the audience know who Cassius is, leading to numerous instances of the assassin speaking in the third person about the nature of a cold-blooded, remorseless killer (attributes that the character repeatedly fails to follow up on) and others making too fine a point on how well certain characters seem to intrinsically understand the mind of a cold-blooded, remorseless killer. Brandt and Haas' attempts to earn tension by inserting Cassius into the action of hunting the self-same fugitive are regularly undermined by the lack of logic in most of the chase sequences. One such scene in a shipping yard is particularly senseless, as Paul and Ben chase an obvious red herring that even everyone onscreen knows is one.

Speaking of blatant misdirection, Cassius is only a red herring for the opening mystery—the one that the movie disregards almost immediately after it happens. That reveal is intended as a surprise, but The Double also forgets that it's spent the majority of its running time making as much of a case for its surprise assassin as it has for the established one.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

Back to Home

Buy Related Products

Buy the DVD

Buy the Blu-ray

In Association with