Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

REVIEW | "The Double" Is a Terribly Derivative CIA Thriller, But Richard Gere Nearly Makes It Work

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire October 26, 2011 at 2:22AM

Richard Gere is an actor who continually resists the easy or obvious, and yet he's far better at choosing characters than projects. In "The Double," he plays Paul Shepherdson, a hardened CIA veteran dedicated to the pursuit of a deadly Soviet assassin dubbed Cassisus, an enigmatic figure whose hidden identity is none other than Paul himself.
1

Richard Gere is an actor who continually resists the easy or obvious, and yet he's far better at choosing characters than projects. In "The Double," he plays Paul Shepherdson, a hardened CIA veteran dedicated to the pursuit of a deadly Soviet assassin dubbed Cassisus, an enigmatic figure whose hidden identity is none other than Paul himself.

That clever set-up provides Gere his meatiest role since his abstract performance in "I'm Not There," a character defined by his moral ambiguity and curious circumstances. Unfortunately, the proceedings are staged with the trite, predictable rhythms of garden-variety espionage. Gere acts circles around it as long as he can.

Paired with newbie investigator Ben Geary (Topher Grace), a driven new recruit brandishing a masters' thesis about Paul's career, the older agent spends the movie either in pursuit of himself or some greater menace that only he knows about. As written and directed by Michael Brandt, a screenwriter whose credits include "Wanted" and "3:10 to Yuma" making his directorial debut here, "The Double" suffers from the derivative qualities of an overly familiar cop drama, replete with overstated music cues, boring car chases and routine gunplay.

The clichés fly by: Shadowy Paul is forced out of retirement by former boss Tom Highland (Martin Sheen, in a random, insubstantial turn) and hesitantly teams up with the overly enthusiastic Ben to follow a new trail of murders that suggest Cassius has returned from the grave (Paul claims to have killed him long ago, but only we know the essential conflict of this statement).

An early scene that finds Paul revealing his true self to a man soon to become the latest victim of the Cassius killing spree stands out because it gives Gere the chance to challenge his inherent likability as a charismatic, middle-aged leading man. The effect recalls Angelina Jolie's enticing performance in Philip Noyce's underrated "Salt," where the indestructible (and, let's face it, absurdly attractive) American agent turns out to have Soviet ties. Brand avoids a precise breakdown of Gere's motives and reading his face provides a unique thrill.

Unfortunately, the rest of "The Double" does not. Having laid out the scenario, Brandt drags it through the motions of a tired procedural. Paul/Cassius struggles against the conflict of needing to off his partner while growing close to him at the same time. His sympathy for Ben's upstart suburban life with his wife and newborn child is only revealed later on.

Finally, "The Double" simply arrives at the showdown it has been heading toward at all along. Having weighed down its plot with good ideas in the opening act, it fails to take them anywhere distinctive until the closing scenes. It doesn't help that Grace's blank stare and the cookie-cutter scenarios make Gere protrude from the mess rather than elevate it.

Brandt can't give the material the freshness it demands, but he's no slouch when it comes to ludicrous twists. The script (written by Brandt and Derek Haas) piles up a new series of developments in the frenzied climax, very nearly redeeming the proceedings by casting Ben's motives into doubt as well. It's a silly setup, but "The Double" ends on a marvelously complex note that subverts the inherent patriotism of all CIA thrillers. By then, however, "The Double" has confirmed he potential Gere made apparent much earlier by simply doing what he does best.

criticWIRE grade: C+

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Image Entertainment opens "The Double" in New York and Los Angeles this Friday followed by other major cities in early November. Gere and Grace aren't unknown quantities, but they're not major box office draws, either, and the murky plot details mean that the movie is unlikely to do great business.

This article is related to: In Theaters, The Double






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More