Review: The Double


Here we have a spy thriller movie called The Double. Scratch that; let’s just call it a spy movie. Why? Well, spoiler warning: there’s a double agent in the movie. I know, right? A double agent in a movie called The Double?

This shocking revelation is one of the many reasons that I wish to strip The Double of its designation as a thriller. Doesn’t a thriller require some semblance of mystery, some overarching movement toward the film’s final, mind-blowing revelation? What happens when that movie reaches that point too early and, indeed, makes it a central part of the film’s marketing?

Not good things, I assure you, and it’s a wonder that the film came out as well as it did.

The Double
Director: Michael Brandt
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: November 4

As the trailer above reveals, The Double revolves around the hunt for Cassius, a Russian assassin known for some high-profile killings and the gathering of a dangerous group called the Cassius Seven. Paul (Richard Gere) succeeded in tracking down all of them except Cassius himself before his retirement, at which point Ben (Gopher Trace Topher Grace) takes over. After the killing of a senator, however, Paul is asked to come back and collaborate with Ben in order to finally track down Cassius.

So, where does a double agent fit in? If you watched the trailer, you already know. If you didn’t watch the trailer, you’ve already guessed. While most spy thrillers would keep this revelation closely guarded and wait until late in the movie to reveal it, The Double does so about halfway through, though it has been obvious for far longer than that. It’s clear that the film has no interest in keeping up any sense of mystery in the plot.

Really, there’s very little appealing about the plot thanks to this. There are some hints at Russian political intrigue that don’t lead anywhere and aren’t interesting on their own, and there are some subplots (including Ben’s wife played by Odette Yustman/Odette Annable/whatever she’s calling herself now as well as a Russian whore played by Castle’s Stana Katic) that briefly ramp up the tension, but also lead nowhere. Also worth mentioning is a scene in which Sheen hides in the dark in an armchair in Gere’s home, which in its short few minutes comprehensively includes every stupid cliche from spy movies. Perhaps it was meant as a silly sort of tribute, but it succeeds only in being silly.

Then there’s the other twist, which actually does happen at the end of the movie and serves absolutely no purpose and makes absolutely no sense. Whether it once made sense before the movie was edited into its relatively short 98-minute running time or it was simply tacked on to add some sort of intrigue to the end is irrelevant: it’s bad because it’s bad. It’s a twist for the sake of being a twist, and this fact is obvious in the worst way.

Believe it or not, the movie is pretty decent otherwise. Its pacing works just fine (despite the weird placement of the reveal of the double), the cinematography is quite nice, and there are some very good action scenes. Absolutely everyone in the film does a very good job, from Martin Sheen in Washington outside of the Bartlett administration to Richard Gere in a role that doesn’t make me want to flee from the theater and watch any other movie ever. Even Gopher is highly impressive as a government agent, and his performance succeeded in making me want to see him in other roles.

If you go into the movie nothing absolutely nothing about it — not even its name; if you accidentally wander into a movie theater, buy a ticket for the next thing that’s showing, and sit through The Double, you might enjoy it. If you know only the name, you might enjoy it somewhat. If you’ve seen the trailer, you might still enjoy it a little bit. While you’re in your seat, it’s often not such a bad bit of entertainment. Once you’ve left your seat…that’s when you begin to realize just how many things the film did wrong, both on the screen and off.