July 25, 2022
Science fiction comedy;
Ticketing $0.19 million;
$27.97 DVD, $28.96 Blu-ray;
Rated “R” for violent content, some sexual content, language and graphic nudity.
With Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Theo James, Beulah Koale, Maija Paunio, Sanna-June Hyde.
Writer-director Riley Stearns’ Double presents a quirky satire on the nature of identity.
The film takes place in a near future world where almost everyone speaks with the same kind of funny precision as the characters of American psycho. Advances in science have led to a rapid form of cloning, giving rise to a new industry that allows terminally ill people to duplicate themselves before they die, allowing their clones to live out their lives and minimizing the distress of their loved ones.
The catch is that if the dying person doesn’t die, either the clone will be destroyed, or, if they’ve lived long enough, they can apply for a form of asylum that requires the person to double-cross the clone until upon death, with the survivor gaining the rights over the contested person.
Karen Gillan plays Sarah, who is told she has an incurable disease with a 98% chance of dying. Sarah decides to play the clone card to ease the pain of her potential death on her boyfriend and mother. Sarah and her double seem to get along well at first, but 10 months pass and Sarah stays alive. In the meantime, subtle personality differences in Sarah’s Double lead to Sarah’s boyfriend leaving her for the double. Sarah turns out to be one of the 2% the disease doesn’t kill, but when she swears to have her clone eliminated out of jealousy, Sarah’s Double demands the right to live, setting up a fight to the death within a year.
Stunned by these developments, Sarah prepares for the duel by hiring a trainer (Aaron Paul) who specializes in clone battle rituals. Their workouts evoke the spirit of a low-rent Hunger Games.
Gillan gives an incredibly understated performance as world-weary Sarah eager to take over. Paul is just as fun to watch as a trainer in the basement, mostly because he’s the main source of exposition to see the inventive paths Stearns took to develop the film’s premise.
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Stearns’ pragmatic approach to the material can feel off-putting at times, but the film clearly derives much of its humor from that company’s flippant apathy towards the premise and all it embodies. One of his darker ideas involves people getting clones because they’re ultra-depressed and intent on killing themselves so the clone can take control of their lives.
The Blu-ray includes a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and an insightful commentary by Stearns in which he mostly sings the praises of its casting and the benefits of filming in Finland.