While Richard Ayoade first came to prominence as a comedic actor on British TV series like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Mighty Boosh, and The IT Crowd, the guy is proving himself to be quite the formidable filmmaker. He made his feature directorial debut with 2010’s delightfully funny and offbeat Submarine, and his follow-up film The Double marks yet a massive step forward for Ayodae as a filmmaker. He really hones in on his aesthetic style with this darkly comic adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevski’s novella of the same name, and anchored by a terrific dual lead performance from Jesse Eisenberg, has crafted one of the more inventive films of the year. Read my full The Double Blu-ray review after the jump.
The Double doesn’t take place in reality, exactly, but it’s a realistic world. Eisenberg plays Simon James, a shy, unassuming young man who is so insignificant that his superior (Wallace Shawn) at his workplace thinks he’s new even though he’s been there for years. Simon pines for a young co-worker named Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), whom he regularly visits in order to get copies made even though he can easily make them in his own department. One day, a new employee named James Simon (Eisenberg) shows up who happens to be James’ doppelganger, but James leaves so little a mark on those he meets that his co-workers either don’t notice or don’t care that this new guy looks exactly like him.
James Simon is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Simon James. He is outgoing, charming, confident, aggressive, and is an instant hit with everyone at the workplace. Though Simon is initially hostile towards his doppelganger, the two eventually strike up a sort of Big Brother/Little Brother rapport that sees Simon doing all of James’ work while James promises to help Simon woo Hannah. As you can imagine, things take a more sinister turn when James turns out to be a bit of a prick.
What’s most striking about The Double aside from Einsenberg’s brilliant performance(s) is the world-building. Ayoade manages to make this stark world feel lived-in and real even though we are given so little information about it. His handle of the aesthetics is masterful, and his visual style grows leaps and bounds from what we saw in Submarine. Moreover, Ayoade nails the blackly comic tone with tight editing and specific blocking; he reminds me of a slightly darker version of Edgar Wright. The film may be impenetrable for some given its refusal to spoon-feed answers in a traditional format, but I found it to be a delight and am really looking forward to seeing more from Ayoade’s directorial career.
The 1080p presentation of the film is a solid transfer, doing a swell job of maintaining the visual aesthetic that was captured on film as opposed to digital. The audio track, presented in 5.1, is excellent as well.
Though I had hoped to delve into a feature-length audio commentary track from Ayoade, unfortunately no such track is included on the Blu-ray. The extras are slightly better than your average EPK fare, but not as in-depth as one might like.
- Cast and Characters (4 minutes 30 seconds) – A short featurette in which the main cast discuss their characters.
- Creating The Double: The Story and Design (4 minutes 46 seconds) – Another short featurette in which Ayoade and his filmmaking team talk about the movie itself and the specific visual style.
- Behind the Scenes Comparisons (4 minutes 25 seconds) – Some behind-the-scenes footage that reveals how they shot scenes in which both of Eisenberg’s characters appeared.
- Interview with Director Richard Ayoade (6 minutes 22 seconds) – Ayoade discusses putting together his cast, what attracted him to Dostoyevski’s novella, and more. This is the closest we get to an audio commentary.
Though the Blu-ray itself is nothing special, I imagine The Double will have a high rewatch factor so the film is well worth owning. Ayoade’s very specific visual aesthetic transfers wonderfully to the HD presentation, making this a watch that’s pleasing both to the brain and the eyes.