Cast: Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere), Ben Geary (Topher Grace), Highland (Martin Sheen), Bozlovski (Tamer Hassan), Brutus (Stephen Moyer), Oliver (Chris Marquette), Natalie (Odette Yustman), Amber (Stana Katic)
Director: Michael Brandt
Theatrical release: 10/28/2011 (limited) DVD Date: 01/31/2012
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 92 minutes
Note(s): Original screenplay written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas.
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Review: Richard Gere stars as Paul Shepherdson, a retired CIA operative, who is tapped by the FBI to assist in finding a rogue Russian agent code-named Cassius in this (almost) direct to DVD release. (It had a short limited showing in theaters late last year.) Shepherdson is partnered with a rookie agent, Ben Geary (Topher Grace), an "expert" in Cassius, his knowledge coming from research he did on a master's thesis at Harvard. (He's an academic and never been in the field, much to Shepherdson's dismay.)
The Double doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is — and that is much of this film's appeal. It is not a spoiler to say that Richard Gere is Cassius; it's obvious to viewers almost from the very beginning and the screenwriters give us credit by acknowledging as much about 25 minutes in. So the suspense in the film is derived from two unanswered questions: Why has Cassius suddenly re-emerged after having been "retired" for so long? And how is Ben Geary going to catch him?
Though scant evidence is provided early on to help answer the first question, it's pretty easy to guess the "why". It's the "how" that's more intriguing and provides much of the action in the film. Shepherdson is adept at misdirection — one of the reasons he's remained for so many years hidden in plain sight, as it were — and he's quick to throw suspicion on a Russian agent, who has been smuggled into the US. (This is the reason for the opening vignette, which seems to have nothing to do with the film when it is shown.) The pursuit of the agent keeps Geary busy while Shepherdson continues on his own unstated mission.
The Double is a short, very watchable film. There isn't much in the way of character development, but I think that's mostly intentional, to keep a bit of mystery surrounding Shepherdson. The performances by the relatively few principal cast members are all credible. Some may quibble about a short-cut or two taken along the logic pathway, but they didn't much bother me. I think this is the screenwriters' way of recognizing that spending too much time on the process of intellectual deductions and conclusions drawn therefrom would have slowed the film down too much … and I respect them for that. I want a challenge, but I also want to be entertained. As much as some filmmakers try to achieve one at the expense of the other, they're not necessarily mutually exclusive elements to a film and I found them to be good balance here. Finally, I was (pleasantly) caught off guard by the unexpected way — a twist, if you will — in which the "how" plays out.
Overall, I enjoyed The Double, probably more than I expected to.