Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Double Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
When a United States Senator is brutally murdered, the evidence points to a Soviet assassin code- named Cassius, who was long-thought to be dead.  Two men who know Cassius best are thrown together to catch him.  Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere, An Officer and a Gentleman) is a retired CIA operative who spent his career tracking Cassius around the globe.  Ben Geary (Topher Grace, Spider-Man 3) is a hotshot young FBI Agent and family man who has studied the killer’s every move.  Ben thinks he knows Cassius, but Paul knows he is dead wrong.  Now, time is running out to stop this merciless killing machine before he finds his next target.  Martin Sheen (The Departed), Stephen Moyer (True Blood), Odette Yustman (Cloverfield) and Stana Katic (Castle) costar in this tense thriller from the co-writers of Wanted and 3:10 to Yuma that will keep you guessing until the very last shot.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

As The Double begins, FBI agents are on a stakeout.  The target of their surveillance is quickly killed, his throat slit from behind before the agents have a chance to move.  This is the signature of the Soviet operative Cassius, who was thought to have been killed by retired agent Paul Shepherdson (Richard Gere).  Rookie agent Ben Geary (Topher Grace) wrote his thesis on Cassius and is the current F.B.I. expert, but the CIA Director Highland (Martin Sheen) wants Shepherdson and his twenty years of hands on experience in hunting Cassius and his  seven trained killers to run the show. Shepherdson believes that he’s already eliminated all seven of the trained killers but Director Highland informs them that one of the killers survived his injuries and is currently in Federal custody.
Shepherdson and Geary go to visit the last survivor of the Cassius seven named Brutus (Stephen Moyer) who is willing to exchange information for a radio. Once he gets his radio, he swallows the batteries to earn a trip to the hospital where he plans to make an easy escape.  What he doesn’t count on is Shepherdson who reveals that he is in fact Cassius (and this is not a spoiler if you’ve watched the trailer) and the prisoner takes his last breaths. The world post 9/11 has changed and with Homeland Security forcing the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. to work together, which takes Shepherdson by surprise since he was used to the internecine fighting between them during his time.  Shepherdson and Geary start off badly with each other and it gets only worse since Shepherdson begins looking for scapegoats as Geary becomes increasingly suspicious of him.  It’s a tricky dance between them since Geary wants nothing more than to catch Cassius while Shepherdson has to protect himself while going through the motions of assisting Geary.
Shepherdson gets to know Geary’s family and spends time with Geary while searching for Cassius.  He tries to explain Cassius’ motives and warns Geary’s wife Natalie (Odette Yustman) that he needs to drop the case.  As we learn why Shepherdson became Cassius we learn that he is a killer with a heart.  For all of his talk about Cassius being a remorseless killer, it’s obvious that that really isn’t the case since he keeps trying to convince Geary and his wife to step away from the case.  After some misdirection a few easy targets present themself  but Geary doesn’t fall for it.  It finally takes the arrival of a known Russian terrorist known as Bozlovski (Tamer Hassan) to provide Geary a truly believable suspect for Cassius.  A trip to Mexico where they meet Russian prostitute Amber (Stana Katic) sets Geary and Shepherdson on the path to Bozlovski just as Geary learns the truth about Cassius.  Geary confronts Shepherdson and Shepherdson reveals he’s learned some of Geary’s secrets as well and they come to an understanding that allows them to work together to go after Bozlovski and the rest of the answers that remain.
I must have completely missed The Double’s run in the theaters since I didn’t know anything about it until it came to my door, which is really surprising since it has some pretty big stars in it.  I’m a fan of both Richard Gere and Topher Grace so this was a nice surprise for me.  The Double is a fairly generic thriller that owes a lot to previous movies likeNo Way Out and Three Days of the Condor, a fact that the filmmakers acknowledge in the special features.  The problem with that is the fact that when compared to those earlier films, The Double pales in comparison.  Since the viewer (and anyone that has seen the trailer knows) that Shepherdson is Cassius, it takes a lot of the drama out that could have been built up over the course of the movie. What made No Way Out so brilliant was the ratcheting up of the suspense on whether or not Kevin Costner’s character was actually a spy or not.   The Double could have been better but I still enjoyed it enough that I would watch it again thanks to the many stars that I like that appeared in this.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The Double is presented in 1080p High Definition wide-screen 2.35:1 ratio.  The commentary talks a lot about the dark and even unfocused feel of the film being intentional but even so this looks pretty good thanks to cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball.  Even despite the creative decision that would normally hinder the picture quality, this transfer still has a nice palette of colors that shift along with the environments.  Skin tones are natural and consistent and black levels are suitably dark with deep solid blacks.  I didn’t noticed any print damage or digital tampering with the transfer which looks really good.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The Double is presented in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 Sound.  The most notable aspect was the off camera ambient effects like traffic and water that added significant depth to the lossless mix.  The rear channels are active and the directionality of the ambient noises was impressive and adds quite a bit of immersiveness to the movie.  The dialogue was clear and consistent throughout as well.  Composer John Debney’s score for the movie also was well balanced and utilized with the rest of the movie.

Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The special features were sufficient in number and content.  I enjoyed listening to the commentary which I often find boring on other movies.
  • Commentary with Director/Writer Michael Brandt and Writer Derek Haas – Although they claim that no one but family would listen to it, both men offer interesting insight and witty banter.  There’s a wealth of information in this commentary where the two men talk about shooting the film with a limited budget and not enough time and how they made the movie look like a bigger budgeted movie than it was.
  • Producer Interviews – Interviews with Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Stephen Moyer and the filmmakers.  This is a short featurette but it has a lot of good info but be warned that there’s a ton of spoilers within it.
  • Trailer – The trailer that spoils the movie deliberately for some reason.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

The Double was a decently entertaining movie.  It wasn’t the type of thriller that had me on the edge of my seat at any point in time but I do really like most of the actors in it.  At every turn, it was very predictable and I saw all the twists and turns coming, but despite that, it didn’t really decrease my enjoyment of the movie since it was well acted and it was better than I thought it would be.  It may not be the most original movie out there, but a great cast makes it a lot better than it should have been.
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