The Double: a study in beige

THEDOUBLEWHEN you think of British actors and comedians, who do you think of? Your first thoughts might be of the nerdy, fantastic character of Maurice Moss from Channel 4’s The I.T. Crowd. Or Jamarcus from the hit and miss comedy The Watch; of which you may not be aware that Ayoade actually directs. Aside from a few TV episodes, music videos and an Arctic Monkey’s concert film, his big screen directing debut came with 2010’s incredibly charming Submarine. 4 years later and Ayoade’s back with The Double, featuring a larger cast, darker themes and blunt humour.

One immediate difference between The Double and Submarine is the primary cast. While the latter had British nationals Yasmin Paige and Craig Roberts as the lead roles, internationally famous actors Jesses Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska take the lead in The Double. It’s satisfying to see these big names up next to Paige and Roberts, who also star in the film, as well as smaller roles from Chris O’Dowd, Paddy Considine and James Fox, and superb acting from Wallace Shawn. Not that these big names take anything away from the story. If anything, their acting works beautifully: Eisenberg’s Simon James reflects his earlier roles of Columbus in Zombieland while his James Simon is like his Mark Zuckerburg on acid. It’s perfect poison. Wasikowska balances out Eisenburg’s zany roles nicely, even if his accent does struggle at times.


The feel of the film is dramatically different to the happy-go-lucky nature of Submarine. The Double feels slower, more paced. The tentative decisions made by Simon James add greatly to the effect of the film, but at times feel a little drawn out. Of course, we are given a complete opposite characterisation with the impulsive James Simon. There’s a very Orwellian feel throughout the film: the barely seen leader of ‘The Colonel’ echoes Big Brother; the data processing office where James and Simon work, the Ministry of Truth; and I feel Simon’s personality can almost be likened to that of Winston’s.

Allusions to Nineteen Eighty-Four aside, The Double is an incredibly dark film. James’ total domination of every aspect of Simon’s life is pure evil. Not one stone is left unturned, and the fact that Simon does nothing to prevent it makes it even more unbearable. This leads us nicely to Simon’s life itself, which is scary for a different reason entirely. His life appears to be what we all fear: unable to get the girl, stuck in a dead-end job where we are not appreciated, and are often described as a ‘none-person’. His monotonous life is reflected in the shade of beige most of the film is shot in, a colour that represents nothing special.

With The Double, Ayoade has taken his directing career down new paths. His bleaker, deeper vision of the world leaves the viewer unsure about what to take away. I left the cinema feeling quite down, but somewhere in this incredibly well filmed piece of film lies a spark of relief, something Ayoade may have left in from his comedy days.