Image Entertainment // 2011 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart // January 26th, 2012
"Cassius doesn't care who he has to eliminate."
The tough thing about writing a thriller review is that I never want to give away too much. In the case of The Double, though, the co-writers say their first draft gave away the first twist right off the bat. I'm glad they revised; the twists unfold in the final movie at just about the right pace. However, it's pretty much impossible to discuss The Double without giving something away, so be forewarned.
A senator has been killed, and it looks like the handiwork of Cassius, who led an elite team of Soviet assassins. Retired CIA agent Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere, The Mothman Prophecies) doesn't think so, though. It soon turns out that he actually knows so; he's Cassius. That could be a problem for FBI agent Ben Geary (Topher Grace, That '70s Show), who wrote the book, or at least the Harvard master's thesis, on Cassius.
If I hadn't told you Shepherdson was Cassius, you'd have probably figured it out on your own in a few minutes. The Double gives away that bombshell nearly half an hour in. From there, the movie's riddle gives way to chases and Gere very happily playing evil. Don't worry; there's another big twist coming. It's one I didn't spot, but I was enjoying myself too much watching Gere go after the people who were cutting throats in Cassius' favorite way.
There's only one point where Cassius actually laughs, but Gere's cool villainy is aimed more at a fun movie ride than serious drama, even if Cassius does appear to be questioning himself as he visits the Geary home for dinner and meets the family of the man who stands in his way. His menace isn't that subtle -- at times you'll wonder why it takes Ben Geary so long to catch on -- but it's entertaining enough to carry the movie. I suspect that Gere wasn't the only actor who was just having fun with this; the commentary did note that several of the cast volunteered to do their own stunts.
As Ben Geary, Topher Grace looks like the quintessential book smart but inexperienced agent. Cassius clearly has the upper hand in the battle of wits as Geary tries to catch the assassin, but Grace plays it just smart enough, keeping things going. Familiar TV faces Jeffrey Pierce, Odette Annable, Stephen Moyer, Martin Sheen, and Stana Katic turn up in smaller roles.
In addition to the duet of death between Gere and Grace, there's enough action -- including garrotings, chases, and shooting -- to keep things brisk. The filming only took about thirty days, which didn't leave time for any fancy camera work, but everything's solid, putting the emphasis squarely on the actors and the goings-on.
In the commentary, co-writers Derek Haas and Michael Brandt (who also directed) are generally self-deprecating as they talk about shooting on a tight schedule and budget, the script's initially weak pacing (and the fact that everybody else who read it saw that), and their contributions to keeping alive the process shot. There's a short behind-the-scenes piece and a trailer. I'd watch all of them after watching the movie, just to avoid spoilers.
If you're looking for an intense, dramatic -- even haunting -- thriller, this isn't it. The relative lack of suspense means The Double isn't a must-see.
Detroit plays Washington, D.C. and Paris, with the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Eiffel Tower making cameos through the magic of visual effects. I'm not generally in favor of city stand-ins, but I'll have to admit it looks seamless enough.
The violence is mild (something the co-writers weren't thrilled with; I hope they were kidding), but anyone who dreads gratuitous process shots might want to skip this one.
If you're stopping for a movie rental after a long, exhausting day at work, The Double should fit the bill, thanks to good performances and a brisk pace.
Review content copyright © 2012 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13