The Double
Image // PG-13 // $29.97 // January 31, 2012
Review by Tyler Foster | posted February 18, 2012
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Graphical Version
When a senator is murdered, a CIA analyst named Ben Geary (Topher Grace) connects the murders to a series of killings by a group known as the Cassius Seven. All but Cassius was caught or killed, and Geary believes Cassius is back. To assist Brandt in his investigation, the director (Martin Sheen) calls in the man who tracked down the other six: Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere). Retired and convinced that Cassius' days are over, Paul isn't all that interested in working with Geary, but when the case heats up, he has no choice but to start digging up the past.

In case the "young brash agent" and "back out of retirement" parts of the synopsis aren't enough, The Double has plenty more cliches to unleash on the unsuspecting viewer long before the credits roll. Director/writer Michael Brandt hasn't met a twist he didn't like, and before long he's just hurling them at the screen in the hope that something will stick, without any rhyme or reason when it comes to tracking the motivations of his characters throughout the picture.

Brandt's direction is ridiculously bombastic. There's hardly a key reveal in the film that isn't accompanied by three crash cuts zooming closer and closer and a huge booming cue from John Debney's score. It's the kind of movie where the characters only move in ways that would be blocked by a director who's watched too many TV shows and movies would ever have someone act, like walking up to a screen in the middle of a room, shaking their head to themselves, before turning around to sigh and dramatically reveal what he knew immediately to everyone else. When Martin Sheen's character shows up to bring Paul back into the fold, he's sitting in the dark inside Paul's house, waiting for him to return home. A criminal played by a glowering Stephen Moyer escapes from prison guards, only to stop in the parking lot of the building he's escaping from to have an entire conversation.

Character motivations are a big problem. As with all retired agents in movies, Paul is haunted by his past, and Geary has a family to think of and his own decisions to atone for, but both men are only haunted when the film finds it dramatically convenient, leaving logical gaps in order to reveal more later. To that end, Brandt employs a distracting flashback structure that feels fairly unnecessary. Geary's family is also dead weight, there to serve the same function as any family in one of these kinds of films: stakes.

Worst of all, though, is the big twist: who is Cassius? There are two extremely obvious answers to this question, and the extent of cleverness here is that it's not the more obvious answer (several indications that it might be are lazy red herrings). At least Brandt doesn't make the viewer wait for it, revealing the answer only 30 minutes into the movie, but the tension this creates for the other hour of the movie isn't dramatic tension, but a wait for the inevitable, which involves characters pinning pictures to a wall and poring through boxes of old files, and finally a finale with car chases and shootouts. The Double is a B-thriller that wants to be taken very seriously, but it's a mess, stumbling through plot holes and telegraphed twists, hoping that if it moves fast enough and offers a certain amount of bang for the viewer's buck, audiences won't notice they've seen it all before.

The Blu-Ray
The film's boring poster becomes the Blu-Ray's boring artwork, which is basically just the two leads standing, doing dramatic things, with a hint of setting and the tone of the movie (i.e., including a gun in the picture). The disc comes in an eco-friendly Vortex case (the kind with less plastic rather than holes), and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
The Double's MPEG-4 AVC, 2.35:1 1080p is almost as good as one should expect a Blu-Ray disc of a 2011 film to be. Detail is impeccable at all times, and the image is crystal clear, with such fine grain that it's hardly visible in any daylight scenes. The only sore thumb nitpicks are black crush that is prevalent enough to absorb brown hair or a blue suit jacket against a dark backyard, and a general lack of depth, possibly thanks to Brandt and Jeffrey L. Kimball's cinematography choices, which may involve a little digital color timing (especially during the harsh flashback sequences, which are slightly color-drained to give them a distinct look from the rest of the feature).

A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 gets the job done with a totally straightforward mix that offers a decent 5.1 presentation and calls it a day. The mix offers "surround" effects whenever I expect them: in that dark backyard, there are crickets and evening ambience effects, cars pass on busy streets, a man hiding in an industrial lot of some sort provides directional attributes based on the framing and everything. At the same time, I was never surprised or immersed in the sound by the mix; it's as average as average can be across the board. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also provided.

The Extras
Audio commentary by director/co-writer Michael Brandt and producer/co-writer Derek Haas: A congenial if unremarkable chat with the filmmakers that covers all the bases. I admit, I wasn't enthralled enough with the feature film to give this a full listen, but a sampling of the track reveals informational chatter about reshoots, the process of writing the script, casting, and no significant gaps of silence.

Interviews (7:49): Identified as a "featurette" on the back cover and "producer interviews" on the menu, this is a short reel of interviews with the cast and crew. Nothing special.

A theatrical trailer for The Double is also included.

Predictable and trashy, and worse, dull and self-serious, The Double is a big swing and a miss. Skip it.

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