By Gary Murray
Starring Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen and Odette Annable
Written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas
Directed by Michael Brandt
Running time 105 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Cable
The political espionage thriller has seen better days. In the time of the Cold War, tales of American-Soviet crosses and double-crosses were a staple of the best-seller book shelves and the local cinema. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, these tales have turned toward Islamic terror and not Spy Vs Spy. In the latest entry to this older genre is The Double, a conspirator based thriller starring one of the most famous faces on the planet Richard Gere
The film focuses itself with Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere) a retired CIA operator who lives a life of watching local kids playing baseball. He spent a good portion of his career chasing Cassius, a vicious Soviet spy. Ben gets thrown back into the game when an important politico is murdered in the exact MO as Cassius. The supervisor (Martin Sheen) believes that they are experiencing the re-emergence of this criminal. They assign Paul with Ben Geary (Topher Grace) a rookie agent who did his masters thesis on Cassius. The youngster is thrilled to show his idol that Cassius, the one that got away, is still a threat.
The problem is that Paul knows exactly what happened to Cassius and that the murder is a copycat. What actually happened to Cassius is a major plot point and driving action of the work, so no spoilers here. Paul is sure that no murder was done by the actual Cassius. Paul is now back helping the FBI to find the phantom killer while trying to find out who is acting like Cassius.
The two agents chase down clues and dismiss different theories as they make discoveries. The identity of the real Cassius is given out very early in the work, the mystery is who is the other killer and if he is indeed tied to Soviets. The Double twists and turns back on itself trying to mask confusion as mystery.
The problem with the film lies directly in the script. Anyone who has ever seen a film like this can guess in about five seconds who the killer is going to turn out to be. There are few true surprises in The Double. As the film tries to twirl an exciting premise, it becomes muddled and loses all effectiveness. It is an exercise in triteness.
The other major problem with The Double is in the casting of Topher Grace. A few years ago, the studios were trying to cast him as the new ‘every man’, like a Jimmy Stewart or a Jack Lemmon. He does not possess the chops to be that kind of a performer. In scene after scene, he looks like a lost boy playing a man. This is a role done weakly and needed a stronger actor to pull off the performance.
There is this charm with Richard Gere that still comes across the Silver Screen even after all these years. This is a walkthrough role, something done more for a paycheck than for artistic merits. He is a winning presence even in something as mundane as The Double. It is the role that got small not the performer.
Michael Brandt and Derek Haas are the team that gave us the remake of 3:10 to Yuma the western from a few seasons back. I know that they can make interesting entertainment but The Double just isn’t one of them.