Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Some twenty years ago, former CIA operative Paul Shepperdson (Richard Gere) was on the trail of the international Russian assassin known only as Cassius and his six merry henchman of mayhem. With that case closed, his henchman deep in the dirt and Cassius assumed dead as well, the retired Shepperdson now spends his days picking up single moms at their kids sporting events. A little pervy perhaps, but we do what we gotta do. Then damn if Cassius, or at least somebody emulating Cassius, doesn’t reappear completely murdering some U.S. Senator with his signature throat slice move. His old boss, CIA Director Tom Highland (Martin Sheen) needs Shepperdson back on the case. Looks like Cassius has been reactivated. Not possible Shepperdson howls because gosh darnit… He’s the international Russian assassin known as Cassius! While that might sound like a twisty ending movie spoiler, it’s not. He fills us in on this little tidbit about twenty minutes in. But don’t you worry, there’s all kinds of little twisty stuff they’re saving for you in this spy thriller ‘The Double’.

To assist Shepperdson in finding the menace that is himself, Director Highland has assigned obsessive rookie FBI agent Ben Geary (Topher Grace) who has been studying the movements and actions of Cassius since his early days at Quantico, as his partner. Shepperdson of course thinks this a terrible idea, considering how driven and how knowledgeable this young man is about all things Cassius, but whaddayagonnado? Adventure awaits.

First thing Shepperdson needs to do is clean up a few loose ends that might be able to expose him, while at the same time keeping Geary at arms length and sending the kid on the occasional wild goose chase, or tossing a red herring in his path. Geary is oblivious to all of this misdirection of course, even fancying himself to be friends with Shepperdson, inviting him over the homestead to hang out with his two young children and enjoy a home cooked meal prepared by his wife (Odette Yustman). Shepperdson advises this wife, in a private moment, to encourage… actually he implores her to advise her husband to get off this case, Cassius being a murderer who cares about no one and will not hesitate to kill anyone, but the young man does seem kind of obsessed about tracking this cat down.

Since standing down isn’t an option, Sheppperson might as well help the young man out a little bit. The question that Shepperson needs Geary to ask himself isn’t ‘who’ or ‘where’ Cassius is but ‘why’. Why did he disappear? If he can answer that, then things are going to get a little bit clearer and only then will he begin to understand. Sleight of hand is the order of the day.

Directed by first time director, but veteran screenwriter Mark Brandt, ‘The Double’ is a serviceable spy thriller, while feeling a little on the familiar side, most notably sharing similar DNA to Roger Donaldson’s 80’s thriller ‘No Way Out’. One of the good things about this movie was Richard Gere as the lead. For whatever reason, Gere hasn’t gotten a lot of notoriety throughout his lengthy career as being a great actor, but over the last few years he’s played some very interesting characters in some very average movies, such as this one or ‘Brooklyn’s Finest’ or even ‘The Flock’. Gere’s performance here as Shepperdson the Double Agent is probably the main, and in some cases the only reason to visit this movie since he brings several layers to his character which always makes him interesting to watch whenever he’s on screen.

That story that we’re given in support to Gere’s fine performance was decent enough, though we do have to question the wisdom of revealing Shepperdson’s double agent status so early in game. True enough, this is the kind of film that most seasoned movie watchers probably would’ve unearthed the secret eventually, but I’m thinking by showing their hand so early it does short change what Topher Grace’s character was going through in attempting to discover Cassius’ true identity. A lot of time was spent with Geary as he pored over photos and bulletin boards and critical evidence trying to connect to dots to a solution that we already know the answer to. I’m thinking it would’ve been more compelling to go through this with Agent Geary as opposed to waiting like a detached spectator for him to hurry up and figure it out what we already know so we can move on.

There’s other twisty stuff the filmmakers tossed in here in lieu of the one they gave away in the beginning, but at that point in the movie it looks like we’re reaching for stuff to hit the audience with as opposed to an organically developing plot device.

Still, ‘The Double’ had all the prerequisites for an entertaining spy thriller with car chases, fist fights, shoot outs, Cassius and his nifty ‘finishing move’ and lots of intrigue to go along with Richard Gere’s fine performance. It’s probably not the best spy thriller we’ve seen in a while but it was a very watchable one.

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