Cinema-Maniac: The Double (2014) Review

The Double is about a government clerk’s life taking a turn for the horrific with the arrival of a new co-worker who is his exact physical double. The best aspect of the film is it ability to provide a simple story that juggles dark humor while at the same time presenting a satirical monotony bureaucracy. Even if the film is not given much thought tells a complete story on it’s protagonist personal journey. Presenting an odd, bleak world with odd characters that our protagonist Simon interacts with. On a basic level Simon is simple character whose conflict arises from his double James. A physical form of the person Simon is not with no backbone to take initiative or guts to speak to the woman he loves. Simon himself makes his life pessimistic because of who he is, just like how his polar opposite James succeeds in what he cannot. This where the film’s dark humor comes from. His lack of conviction to act lends itself to repercussions for Simon from a security guard not recognizing him despite having work in the company for seven years or elevators not working him. In one way the film speaks about Simon being his own worst enemy as too much of one side does not please him. Psychology it could be seen as a breakdown of a single character in a monotony bureaucratic future where everything looks the same. While the forefront is always keen on Simon personal journey there’s small clues given and dialogue given to present the troubled dystopia. Looking at conformity or carbon copy of people being manipulated to take the shape and form of another instead of being themselves. Care was put into it writing as virtually anything it wants to tackle works in the film without eliminating attention from the main story.

Richard Ayoade succeeds in giving his film a dystopic, old fashioned, darkened look. There is very little bright light that ever strikes the frame as a single scene never takes place in daylight. Everything is dark and grey, with no real sense of colour (outside of a hyperactive spacey television show starring Paddy Considine). The film is set in an indiscernible time period which is deliberate to help add to the enigmatic nature of the dystopia Ayoade creates for Simon. He sees things as mundane, and very black and white. It defines his existence really, giving the setting an equal footing alongside the characters. Each frame drowns in an artificial blackness, harsh metals and steampunk/obsolete technological amalgams being used as seemingly high-tech office systems. Sly commentary on the doubling is brought to our attention via Simon’s constant trips to Hannah’s floor for one copy of his paperwork while the skin and bones facsimile walking around inside his life ends up not as autonomous as a Xerox sheet. They share a connection that Ayoade exposes through violent rage and a very precise outburst of frustration. Ayoade also makes a clever and interesting usage of sound in the film. From the television set to the copy machine. Even footsteps and knocking on a door seem intrusive. Voices and subtly used music to get inside of Simon’s head. All of these elements help act alongside the setting to really define Simon as a character keeping the aesthetics in check as much as it carefully woven story.

Jesse Eisenberg gives a very surprising performance as both Simon and James. Eisenberg is pitch perfectly cast in a dual role that requires him to seem put-upon and timid and broken, while also arrogant and assertive and borderline sociopathic. There are other actors in the film, but Jessie Eisenberg, as Simon and James, are basically the only one who actually gets to do something of note, which is somewhat disappointing since the film has a very good cast. Australian actress Mia Wasikowska is Hannah, the girl that Simon pines after. Wasikowska gave a very good playing a believable lost soul, but her American accent was inconsistent. Wallace Shawn plays Simon’s boss, a good natured, but stern man fits into the role. Supporting cast are limited in screen time from Sally Hawkins, Chris O’Dowd, and Paddy Considine all have minor roles, and Noah Taylor is indispensable are solid whenever on screen.

The Double is a clever satire supported by it anesthetics and a plot that also succeeds as a character study. It humor won’t be everyone liking, but the film tackles an arrange of themes and has a dynamic character to keep it story engaging. Alongside it are the technical aspects that serve the story as an equal to hold meaning as a narrative component not to just make it pretty. It works as a character study and succeeds as a satire offering dark humor in a very smart film that isn’t a carbon copy of old tricks for these kind of stories.


Differences between Enemy and The Double:

“Enemy” is the more intellectual of the two demanding viewers to form their own interpretation with the clues given to them. It’s a film that can’t be compare any other because if complex story and dream like atmosphere. “The Double” on the other hand works out an interpretation with you making it easier for audience to make sense of it all. While “The Double” does cover familiar ground it has the advantage of not relying as much on visuals or dialogue motifs to tell its story. If you removed the satire elements it equally works as a character study whereas “Enemy” ambiguity is required for the atmosphere it wants to achieve. Sure both film protagonists have some common traits, but plot wise are distinct both utilizing different techniques and having vastly different execution. Aside from coming out the same year, both being about doppelganger, and shared traits in protagonists similarity, there is not much to compare.

Cinema-Maniac: I, Frankenstein (2014) Review

Last times I bother giving film based on some of my favorite stories were ruined. First, it was “47 Ronin” which insulted the culture where it originated from and made those unaware of the classic story look at it as petty revenge instead of as a story about honor. Second film was “The Legend of Hercules”. Just like “47 Ronin”, “The Legend of Hercules” had a foundation of a great material to work from and still manages to make it terrible by removing anything that made those stories worth telling centuries later. Now it’s Frankenstein which is one of my favorite example of a simple to understand, but in depth metaphor that carry plenty of interpretation. It’s just unfortunate that the filmmakers involve with “I, Frankenstein” have never bothered to use the one organ that Frankenstein needed to function, the brain.

I, Frankenstein is about Frankenstein’s creature caught in an all-out, centuries old war between Gargoyles and Demons. That’s pretty much it. There’s no characterization, no subplots, little explanations, dumb characters, a hero who only speaks in one liner, and a rush pace. You know a film is bad when literally the first ten minutes creates unnecessary conflict. So Frankenstein dies in the first three minutes and everyone associated with the war wants his book. His book details exactly how he was able to reanimate a corpse. Once introduced, the Gargoyle Order tells the newly named monster, Adam, that the demon prince, Naberius, wants the book. As the audience we’re not told immediately why Naberius wants the book, but a demon prince wanting the book of a scientist who reanimated a corpse it’s not difficult to put those two together. Made worse by the fact that the Gargoyles Order leader decides to not destroy the book despite knowing Naberius intentions. Therefore you got force conflict with idiotic characters that A.) Deserve what is coming to them, and B.) Helping out their opponent by not destroying Frankenstein’s book. Sure the Demon Order want to keep it safe so Adam could learn about himself, but it’s said in a line of dialogue by the leader herself that Adam already knew about himself without needing to read the book. Also moments later it is explained that as so long it has the Gargoyle Order symbol that anything can be sacramental. In plain English it just means holy symbols on weapons to be capable of killing Demons. However, in the same scene it is said anything can be made sacramental which begs to question when around the twenty four minute mark why isn’t the Gargoyle Order headquarter sacramental. You think an army of Gargoyles that fought for centuries would at least think of making their headquarter sacramental therefore making it impossible for Demons to enter. Just absolutely speechless.

Going on further in what occurred in the first ten minutes is all the story spent on developing characters. They remain flat, carry no weight, and are one dimensional dullness. Only given the trait of good guy and bad guy. Granted the concept of the monster character is interesting, but does nothing with it. By the time Adam transforms it’s spontaneous since nothing significant big or small made a convincing argument for Adam to reaffirm his faith in trusting humanity. The premise while simplistic could have been creative. It science fiction elements are flimsy with the only reason to bring back the dead is lots of electricity. Oh of course movie, people are exactly like portable electronic devices. All people need is electricity to be resurrected when their battery life is depleted. I have no idea why I bother learning about the circulatory system, respiratory system, immune system, lymphatic system, and the nervous system with years of scientific proof to back them up. When clearly a single scientist, that according the film very own scientist characters, say are theories that haven’t been looked into since the 18h century is clearly enough evidence to refute how the human body actually functions. Clearly writers Kevin Grevioux and Stuart Beattie don’t have functioning brains.

Aaron Eckhart is the best actor in the film, though that’s not saying much. He is very committed in the role, but is always pissed off. Nearly every single one of his line is meant to make him sound tough and cool with his deep, angry voice. Making it impossible to portray a character who has a centuries of conflicted thoughts as anything more than a angry man. Also his make up is uninspired looking like an ordinary person with lots of stitches instead of a reanimated corpse with clearly different body parts. Jai Courtney, Miranda Otto, and Yvonne Strahovski are all one note. The problem with them is despite being sold as important characters can’t do anything with the material. These three in particular only say expositions throughout with their never changing, expressionless performances making them worse. Bill Nighy comes across as a grumpy old man with a speech impediment who is neither menacing as the villain nor believable as this sinister demon prince. Director and incompetent writer Stuart Beattie goes big on cheap looking CG with his action scenes. Adding fire effects whenever a demon is slain that look cool the first couple of times, but then serves nothing more than to hide the badly choreographed action scenes. Most of Eckhart action scenes suffer from the Seagal formula in which Exkhart defeats his opponents without getting hit once. Granted there’s one decent fight scene in the only time Eckhart faces off against an opponent who matches his skill.

I, Frankenstein is a brainless mess that above providing nothing to latch on to insults your intelligence by the sheer stupidity of it logic. Nothing about it represent the metaphor that the monster stood for in the classic story of “Frankenstein”, but also entirely misses the point of the source material it’s adapting. Even with your brain turned off there’s so many questionable decisions along with one note acting that makes it impossible enjoyable even just for spectacles.