The Double Review
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Once upon a time, Cold War thrillers were the hottest thing in Hollywood. If you needed a villain, you just found a big, beefy guy (or a femme fatale) with a good Russian accent. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, though, all that has changed. Filmmakers (and moviegoers) just don’t see the Russians as such a huge threat. But director Michael Brandt tries to put the freeze on a new Cold War in his twisted first feature, The Double.

When a senator is brutally murdered, retired CIA agent Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) is called in for a meeting—because young FBI agent Ben Geary (Topher Grace) believes that the killer is Shepherdson’s old nemesis, a Russian spy known only as “Cassius.” Shepherdson spent decades of his career hunting Cassius and his team of Russian assassins before bringing down all but one: Cassius himself. For years, Cassius has been inactive—and presumed dead—but Geary is convinced that he’s back.

Reluctantly, Shepherdson agrees to join the operation, riding along with a star-struck Geary, who’s been studying Shepherdson’s work since college. But the young agent doesn’t realize that nothing is quite as it seems—and his obsessive search for the notorious assassin could put him and his family at risk.

The Cold War may have thawed years ago—and a Russian assassin may seem like a strange choice for a modern-day villain—but the nationality of the bad guy really doesn’t matter here. What matters is that the concept behind The Double is filled with intriguing twists—the first of which comes early in the film, when Cassius’s true identity is revealed (though only to the audience), making the story all the more intriguing.

Unfortunately, though, what could have been a smart spy thriller eventually gets lost in the muddled storytelling. Not only is the dialogue often awkward and unnatural, but the story gets bogged down in nagging plot holes and unanswered questions. And instead of racing along with Shepherdson and Geary, getting caught up in the action and espionage of it all, audiences will find themselves tripped up by the details, trying to figure out how everything works together.

The cast, meanwhile, is less than convincing. Grace may be well into his 30s, but he still looks (and acts) like a scrawny high school kid—not a Harvard grad with a wife, two kids, and a doctorate. Still, his unlikely casting isn’t nearly as distracting as Odette Yustman Annable’s painful performance as Ben’s wife—or Chris Marquette’s role as Ben’s dorky FBI buddy, who feels completely out of place in an otherwise serious thriller.

At its core, The Double is a fascinating spy thriller, with plenty of action, intrigue, and deep, dark secrets. The concept is certainly clever, but the execution is disappointing, making the finished product more of a frustrating mystery than a fast-paced thriller.

Blu-ray Review:
You won’t find a whole lot of surprises on the Blu-ray edition of The Double. In fact, the special features menu is pretty basic, with just three options (including a trailer).

The film’s one feature, The Double: Behind the Scenes is probably the biggest surprise—but that’s only because it’s listed on the menu as Producer Interviews. Here, the cast members talk about their characters, their psychology, and their motivation, while also discussing the story and its relevance today. Still, the interviews aren’t particularly lively, and it makes for a rather dry featurette.

The disc also includes a commentary track with writer/director Michael Brandt and co-writer Derek Haas. For the most part, it’s a pretty standard commentary, but it’s still interesting to hear about the filmmaking process and its various challenges from a pair of first-time filmmakers.

None of these extras are required viewing (unless, apparently, you’re a Baylor University film student who’s looking for some extra credit). But if you’re interested in a first-time filmmaker’s perspective on filmmaking, you might want to take a few minutes to skim through the commentary.

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