The Double

12 Dec

Title: The Double
Year: 2011
Director: Michael Brandt
Writers: Michael Brandt and Derek Haas
Starring: Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Michael Sheen, Odette Yustman, Stephen Moyer, Stana Katic
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images and language
Runtime: 98 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%

The Double to me was the kind of film that, had it been done right, could have actually made for a rather entertaining time at the movies, but the fact was that it was just really badly made, the characters were written as if by following a step-by-step out of a Screenwriting for Dummies handbook, and any discernible motivation for their actions in the film was apparently lost in the process, and any time it seemed as though this one would maybe touch upon some complex issue and give the film some texture it went into generic mode, settling for really dumb twists and turns you could see coming from a mile away and moments made to feel dangerous that you couldn’t really care for.

That’s kind of the general reaction I had to this film, that I just didn’t really care for it or any of its characters, not to mention that I kind of got the sense that it was the reaction the film had to itself. When it shares its big twists with us it does so quite boringly and turns into a rather silly film concerned with trying to make Richard Gere seem like a dark and complex character and Topher Grace looked shocked about learning information we had already been given. And no disrespect to those two actors since I think they’re both really fine players when given the proper material, and Mr. Gere certainly tries his best here, but neither of them really has the charisma to pick up the load in this one and make it work despite the predictable genre rhythms it throws at us, failing at making us believe it’s stuff we haven’t seen before.

The title of the film tells you what it’s about, a double agent, that’s the big reveal I mentioned the film throws at you with a kind of shrug at the end of its first act, and a reveal that gives itself away if you spend a couple of minutes on YouTube watching the trailer. It’s obviously still neat to see Mr. Gere playing lead in a spy movie, as Paul, a retired CIA agent called back to duty after the Soviet assassin he had been after for most of his career starts killing again. He’s paired with Ben, a young FBI agent who’s plenty talented, is well-versed on the case but hasn’t been out in the field all that much. And like I said, Mr. Gere really tries his very best here, and there are some moments that he’s just acting so well that you kind of start getting into it, but then the plot comes back into gear again and you lose that interest just as fast.

If all of this had been milked for all its good parts a decent enough flick could have maybe emerged from it, but, as it stands, The Double is just nothing worth singling out, the thrills aren’t thrilling, it’s certainly not a smart kind of espionage thriller, and all of the twists and characters it introduces don’t work because instead of feeling as natural components of the story we’re being told they just seem, like I said, like what a basic Screenplay for Dummies book would tell you to insert at that point in the film. And that’s kind of what it feels like, like little exercises in basic screenwriting techniques by Michael Brandt (who also directed) and Derek Haas, practicing before making the actual film, which is surprising considering these are the two that wrote the great remake of 3:10 to Yuma four years ago.

As the story goes along the film depends a lot on the relationship between Paul and Ben, with Mr. Gere being commanding as always and Mr. Grace falling short because of the crappy material. It just sucks because none of this is really worth our time, the characters never make us care about what happens to them, the twists are never great and they start piling up after a while in a rather unimpressive fashion. I’ll give it away because the film never once acted as though it cared and the trailer gave it away anyways: it happens that Paul and Cassius are one and the same, that’s the big reveal at the beginning of this film, and after that not-really-all-that-shocking shock is out of our bodies we get a tedious film of Mr. Gere trying to look grim in a relationship that has no real electricity with Mr. Grace, who of course starts suspecting his partner of what we already know he did.

There’s yet another “big” twist here that’s delivered at the very end of the movie and that’s quite dumb, but maybe even if it was dumb it would’ve been a cool note to end the film on, but the thing is that you’ll already have lost any little bit of interest in these characters and this story by that point, so you’ll go “oh, well look at that” leave the theater and forget about The Double the minute you’re out the door.

Grade: C


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