Doing the rounds in the past few months and due to hit our sceptered isle in as little as a few short weeks, this new project from Denis Villeneuve sees him once again utilising the talent of Jake Gyllenhaal. Previously they have co-opted on last years’ excellent thriller, Prisoners, and there was much hushed and expectant whispers about what Denis would come up with next.
And truly, he hasn’t disappointed us. Although perhaps timed a little inauspiciously for UK audiences, with The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg, now playing in cinemas locally, this mysterious and unsettling tale of double identity will grapple with you. At times completely incomprehensible and at others methodically plodding, the story of a man who sees himself in a movie he didn’t know anything about is indeed the head-scratcher that it has already been labelled by many.
Already, the internet is replete with studies on nuance and the minutae of detail that Villeneuve supplies, and the meaning behind this enigma may be argued over for some time to come. Some will suggest that this is simply the best kind of movie, one that will prompt vociferous debate, and I would add that any film that can instill a passion in its audience is doing a great job of telling its story, especially the ambiguous projects that force the audience to at least do some of the work themselves.
Adam discovers, apparently by accident (but this is another possible variable of many) that he as a double. This double is an unknown, jobbing actor who he sees as an extra in a film that has been recommended to him by a colleague whilst on a break from his history lecturing at school. Understandably curious about this apparent doppelganger, he seeks him out. This is probably the very worst thing he could possibly do, for reasons I will not be drawn into here, so as not to be accused of ‘spoilering’.
The films’ tone is all over the place, if we’re honest, but this is not accidental. Occasionally we are witness to great joy and beautiful moments of love, as well as a host of WTF! moments, some of which are addressed and tidied by the end, and frustratingly, some of which are not. In addition, there are times of depression, fear and terror all thrown into a heady mix that will make your brain squirm. And by the conclusion (which does little to solve your questions, yet manages to pose more as well as scare you to death) you have that very rare film that you want to see again, immediately, just to see if there were any clues that you missed.
Villeneuve has refused to be pressed on the continuing theme running through the film (you’ll know what I mean, when you have seen it) and actually placed an embargo on the cast discussing the allegory of the project, again, with the intention of letting the audience draw their own conclusions.
What all of this left-field imagery and unsettling dream sequence shenanigans are about, I will let you decide. But when you have worked it out, please drop me a line and let me know. I have a theory, but…
Great performances by the whole cast and stunning direction make this an easy film to watch, coming in at around ninety minutes, it will also be over before you’ve really got settled. “Leave them wanting more”, is a suitable philosophy here, and Villeneuve has achieved this admirably. This will doubtless stay with you for a while after you have left the cinema, as it poses some interesting questions that it dares its viewer to answer.
Get to a screen and see it the minute you get the chance.