Year Released: 2011
Directed by: Michael Brandt
Starring: Richard Gere, Topher Grace, Martin Sheen
"Youth is a blunder, manhhod a struggle, old age a regret." Benjamin Disraeli
If I praise the great production values, the cinematography, and Richard Gere’s subtle acting in this spy thriller, is it a little like saying your fix-up date has a great personality?
Well, yes, maybe, but this isn’t the junior prom. It’s just a rather nice way to while away a few hours in front of your big screen TV, where you can soak in the high definition Blu-ray colors at your leisure.
As critic Marshall Fine notes, there is “…a gorgeous opening shot of migrant workers crossing over to America. It’s infused with a bright sun hitting yellow clothing that gives everything a nice golden hue or halo effect.” That beauty nicely contrasts with the violence that quickly ensues, with a quick shot of the golden landscape littered with corpses.
This is the first time screenwriter Michael Brandt (3:10 to Yuma) sits in the director’s chair, so maybe we should forgive the somewhat uneven pacing that quickly lurches to Washington, D. C. six months later where we witness the assassination of a U.S. senator. Again the violence happens so quickly we are as taken aback as the FBI team keeping him under surveillance for his suspect Russian business deals.
But maybe that’s what Brandt wants -- to keep us off balance as we are jarred from one plot twist to another. Without dwelling on the plot, suffice it to say that Richard Gere plays a modern day version of Richard Burton from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, a reluctant retiree called back into action also reminiscent of Gary Oldman’s George Smilely of MI6 fame in the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Gere’s Paul Shepherdson is called in to hunt down his old Nemesis, Cassius, a Russian assassin he swears is now dead. But Ben Geary (Topher Grace), the young gun FBI expert on Cassius who has even written his Harvard Master’s thesis on the guy, begs to differ. The slashed throat on the dead senator, closing with an upward thrust, is as good as Cassius’s DNA.
But the real beauty of the film, which makes us forgive some improbable twists, derivative boilerplate, exposition that either hurries by too quickly or interrupts the action with repetitious flashbacks, is the relationship between Gere’s melancholic Shepherdson and the eager-to-please Agent Geary.
What some have criticized as Gere’s aloof performance, I see as the nuanced acting of a mature professional who speaks with his eyes, facial expressions, and the world weary set of his shoulders. Try as he might, however, Topher Grace is not in the same league. He still seems tied to the small screen, playing variations of the affable Eric Forman, that somewhat vanilla nice guy he played for seven seasons on “That ‘70s Show.”
Amidst all the thriller chaos we have a few small quiet scenes that tell us a lot about the characters, though we can’t connect the dots until much father down the line. A little scene with Gere at a little league game, for instance, gives us the frame for the picture of him that is later revealed.
The Double reminds me of those early works of Alfred Hitchcock in the 30s before he left England. His plots were a little shaky at times; they stumbled here and there, but those inevitable flashes of brilliance marked him as a force to contend with. These similarities tell me The Double merits your attention.
The Russian bad guys in this film are pretty intense. One of them walks across the Mexican border in the first scene, and his presence casts an evil glow that sucks the golden hues out of the sunshine. Without saying a word, his presence tells us he is the mover and shaker of that scene.
Then there’s Brutus. If his name doesn’t forewarn you, then the scarred face leering from behind the prison bars does. These Russians are not to be messed with.
Let’s celebrate the fact that they cannot jump out of the screen and hypnotize us with those menacing eyes. What could be more fitting than this aptly named drink made with Coffee Liqueur? The addition of Cola is what makes it “dirty.”
Enjoy a Dirty Black Russian with today’s spy thriller.
Dirty Black Russian Cocktail
Our Dirty Black Russian cocktail is a highball variation of the traditional Black Russian drink. It is made pretty much along the same way as a traditional Black Russian is made, but is topped off with cola. This is a high ball drink served over ice with no garnish.
The addition of the cola is what makes the Black Russian a Dirty Black Russian. This is also sometimes called a Tall Black Russian.
3 shots of Vodka
2 shots of Coffee liqueur
Any kind of cola
Chill a highball cocktail glass with ice cubes
Add ice cubes into a cocktail shaker or a large glass
Add vodka to the cocktail shaker
Add coffee liqueur into the shaker
Stir well to mix
Empty the shaker into the chilled highball
Top the highball with a large splash of the cola
Vader : Substitute Cola with Jägermeister.
Smooth Black Russian: Also known as the Irish Russian, the cola in the dirty black russian recipe is substituted with Guinness stout.
Peri’s Black Russian: The vodka in the dirty black russian is substituted by Vanilla vodka.
Brown Russian: The cola in the recipe is substituted with Ginger Ale.
Tips and Notes
The popular coffee liqueurs are Tia Maria and Kahlua. You may use either of them.
Recipe Source: Lost Saloon.com