Imagine if in The Usual Suspects, that great twist that nobody saw coming regarding the identity of Keyser Soze, the criminal genius pulling the strings was revealed twenty minutes into the film. Maybe if this had been the case we wouldn’t know any differently and the film would still be hailed as one of the best films of the 90s or maybe the plot would have still unfolded with us watching the characters bumble around whilst we knew more than them and it would have been a pretty generic action thriller.
This is the fatal flaw with The Double, the directorial debut of screenwriter Michael Brandt, which plays its hand far too early and could have been something special.
The plot concerns retired CIA veteran Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) being coaxed out of retirement by ‘the company’ when young FBI Profiler Ben Geary (Topher Grace) links the assassination of a senator to a Russian assassin that Shepherdson thought he disposed of years earlier. The two of them have to work together to catch the killer using the network of Russian spies that came to America whilst the country ‘was being myopic about the Middle East’. Basically it sets back post-cold war relations several years.
The clue may be in the title but The Double really does blow its beans far too early. What you are left with is the equivalent of the audience seeing the bomb ticking under the table as a couple are engaged in conversation above, except it’s nowhere near that exciting. Not much time is spent on developing the bond between Geary and Shepherdson outside of a dinner date and Shepherdson trying to warn Geary and his wife that he is out of his depth.
Had they gone the other way and had the reveal late in the game with the relationship development being the first hour or so then this may have had more impact. What’s worse is that Topher Grace is severely miscast as a FBI hotshot with a young family, and not in a million years do we believe that he would be married to Odette Yustman. Grace is much more believable in the role of the creepy villain than in the heroic role. Richard Gere does his Richard Gere thing but brings none of the ferociousness he displayed in Internal Affairs which would have gone a long way in helping the film. It is possible this was compromised in the editing room, coming in at a breezy hour and a half, it does feel like a bit more breathing and development room for the story and characters was lost at the insistence of a producer somewhere.
In terms what we have as the final product, The Double is a generic action movie which really only picks up in the last ten minutes as the threads come together and various car chases and gun battles close the story up quite well. Although be warned there is even a final twist on top of the big one which will probably make you put your foot through the screen and does nothing to help the aforementioned miscasting shenanigans.
The Double is hokum, entertaining hokum but hokum all the same. It could have been so much more.