Keep your enemies close.
Richard Gere and Topher Grace (together at last?) star in spy thriller The Double, which flew way, way under the radar when it was released in 2011. Will it find its audience on Blu-ray?
Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere, Pretty Woman) is a former CIA agent called out of retirement, because a senator was recently murdered in the style of Cassius, a legendary Russian spy whom Shepherdson spent his career pursuing. Ben Geary (Topher Grace, Spider-Man 3) is an ambitious young FBI agent who wrote his graduate thesis on Cassius, and wants to be the one who finally puts Cassius away. As these two form an unlikely partnership, many secrets are revealed, and no one’s sure who they can trust.
As a spy thriller, The Double hits all the notes you’d expect—the expert who gets called in for one last job, the risk-taking young agent with a wife and kids at home, double crosses, surprise twists, visits to the city’s seedy underbelly, clandestine meetings taking place outdoors with Washington D.C. landmarks in the background, etc. The movie gets a lot right, but, unfortunately, it’s nothing you haven’t already seen.
The filmmakers take a huge risk by revealing one of the big plot twists early on, but this pays off nicely, as it sets up a “how much does the other person know” tension throughout the rest of the film. This makes the suspense not a question of whether Cassius will be caught, but when. It’s an espionage movie, so of course there are more surprise twists to come. The fact that we can tell more twists are coming speaks to how there is not much here that you can’t find in a dozen other spy movies. This is a talky thriller as well, so don’t expect a lot of action, although a car chase during the finale does get the adrenaline pumping.
The actors perform their roles as expected. Gere does the world-weary thing with ease, yet one look at his eyes, and you tell his mind is always spinning as he tries to stay one step ahead of his enemy. Grace is surprisingly good, managing to depict his character as driven but not obsessed. It would have been easy for either character to come off as too broad or cartoonish, but the actors are smart enough to know dial their performances down to keep things relatively grounded. Rounding out the cast is Martin Sheen (The West Wing) as the gruff CIA director, Odette Yustman (Cloverfield) as Geary’s supportive wife, and Stana Katic (Castle) in a brief and thankless role as a prostitute.
Tech specs are good, with a clean, colorful 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen transfer, and and evenly-balanced 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. For extras, there is a commentary with the filmmakers, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and the trailer. Don’t watch the trailer before watching the movie—it spoils pretty much everything.
The Double is the hardest type of movie to write about, one that’s so middle of the road. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, but there are many other, better movies in this genre. What this movie needs is more of everything: More dramatic tension, more thrills, more atmosphere, more. Instead of more, we’re merely stuck with what’s familiar.