"“Ayoade has created a surrealistic, emotional world, and it's one that we're completely immersed in for the length of this title...”"
Having blown us away with his distinctive, ingenious directorial debut Submarine, there is much pressure placed upon the shoulders of British filmmaker Richard Ayoade as he presents his sophomore feature The Double. However he doesn't disappoint in the slightest, with yet another defining piece of cinema. This back to back brilliance is most impressive in how different the two films are, both in style and substance – and yet how both are equally as unforgettable as the other.
Based on Dostoevsky's novel, The Double features Jesse Eisenberg as Simon, a fragile and timid man, lacking heavily in confidence, and living out a monotonous existence as he trudges through life, working hard every day to no avail or recognition, while he desperately fails in his attempts to win the heart of his colleague and neighbour, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). As Simon dreams of one day summoning up the courage to ask her out, what he doesn't envisage is for his exact replica to enter into his life and take his place, as James (also played by Eisenberg) is not only his complete doppelgänger, but the charismatic, charming man he wishes he could be.
Where The Double comes to life is within the striking aesthetic, as Ayoade has created a surrealistic, emotional world, and it's one that we're completely immersed in for the length of this title. Often that's all you want from your director, to take you away from reality and into their own warped imagination. This picture is very staged and choreographed, where everything moves like clockwork, an approach which suits the surrealist nature of the film, which all feels so imaginary. On the other hand, there is a poignancy running right through the middle of proceedings, as despite the fantastical edge, the very crux of this story is a man simply fed up with his life – disliking his day job and fancying a girl he can't get – both relatable themes despite the surroundings. The setting is uniquely crafted, with a dark, brooding atmosphere, symbolising the mundanity of our protagonist's life, in a soulless world where the colour brown seems excruciatingly prevalent.
Eisenberg is perfectly cast for our lead role – back doing what he does best, as an actor who works much better when on the back foot. In Now You See Me he plays this charismatic, elusive figure and it simply doesn't suit him in the slightest. In The Double he's the underdog, unlucky in every aspect of his life, and this works far more effectively for his talents, as an actor who works so well as the downtrodden, diffident loner, as it matches his whole demeanour. Such flaws to his talents are exposed when he has to be James – yet he must be commended in that we always know exactly which role he's playing at any given time, despite their identical looks and dress sense. It's just a twinkle in his eyes, a slight turn at the end of his smile – and instantly we know which character he's portraying.
On a more negative note – there are a few too many cameo roles within this film that feel somewhat out of place. Though it's immensely enjoyable to see the likes of Chris Morris, Chris O'Dowd and Paddy Considine, their inclusions feel somewhat contrived and it's distracting – as actors more naturally suited to the roles at hand should have been cast instead. It just feels like Ayoade is getting all of his mates in on the act – but he's surpassed such a trait following his superb debut.
Nonetheless it's a very minor gripe in a film that is otherwise beguiling, entrancing and extremely emotional too, in what is a stylistic and visually memorable piece of cinema. Complete with Hitchcockian sensibilities - and a similarity to the likes of Berberian Sound Studio - The Double marks the steady rise of Ayoade, as it seems we're unearthing a serious talent, who has fortunately, overcome the difficult 'second movie' hurdle. On to the third we go.