THE DOUBLE (2011)
Starring Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen, Stephen Moyer, Odette Yustman, Stana Katic, Chris Marquette, Tamer Hassan, Nicole Forester, Jeffrey Pierce and Yuriy Sardarov.
Screenplay by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas.
Directed by Michael Brandt.
Distributed by Image Entertainment. 98 minutes. Rated PG-13.
The Cold War has been over for decades, but don’t tell Hollywood that.
While Russian spies are not quite as prevalent in film as they were in the 80s, there are still a whole lot of movies that revolve around the remnants of the KGB. (The Arabs have somewhat taken over the Russian shorthand bad guy position, but their spies are generally much less plot friendly. Also, it’s worth noting that one of the production companies for this film is based out of the Middle East, making you wonder if they want to deflect the negative perception.)
You have to wonder how much juice the Russian Secret Service can still have, particularly considering one of the leads here points out that he watched the fall of Communism on TV when he was only ten.
Still, The Double is a twisty spy drama straight out of the Reagan years, full of no-good Russian spies and gruff G-men working diligently to capture them.
The film works as well as it does mostly due to the stars. Particularly Richard Gere is terrific as an aging retired FBI agent named Paul Shepherdson, who is pulled back into active duty when his long-absent archenemy – a communist assassin known as “Cassius” seems to have reappeared and murdered a US Senator. Shepherdson insists that it must be a copycat because Cassius is long dead, but his superior at the Agency (a stern Martin Sheen) believes that the super-assassin is back to his old ways. Therefore, he saddles Shepherdson with a whiz-kid agent named Ben Geary (Topher Grace) to track down the old spy.
Their styles are completely different – Shepherdson is an old-school beat-the-answer-out agent while Geary is more into CSI precision and research. The two grate on each other as they follow the clues through a series of slightly convoluted plot twists.
Of course, one of the main twists (there are actually two that really stand out) occurs maybe a half-hour into the film, robbing the film of much of the suspense that would seem to be inherent on the premise.
Sadly, for a film that is trying to be a whodunit (and whydunit) the film plays awfully close to the vest with the clues. For example, a newspaper crossword puzzle with Russian answers it shown so fleetingly that it is nearly impossible to get its significance until the puzzle is pulled back out at the film’s climax to expose a bad guy in one of the film’s “gotcha” moments.
Therefore, instead of a mystery or crime procedural, the story of The Double feels more like a slight-of-hand trick. The filmmakers try to make us look one way with the first turn, then pull a rabbit out of the hat with the second. It almost gets the feel of later M. Night Shyamalan, so desperate to surprise that it sometimes throws little things like plot coherence and character consistency aside.
Still, in an old school way, the film is rather fun in its spy moves. The crosses and double crosses may not always be realistic, but they are mostly intriguing.
It’s all very 1986, but pretty still enjoyable.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 27, 2011.