Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), the hero of Richard Eyoade's comic thriller The Double, is a spineless, toothless, whimpering corporate drone. He's trapped in a menial job at a ghoulish company that looks born out of some Kafkaesque nightmare. The world that we see here seems eternally bound to the vaccuum-tube technology of the 1950s with the vague hum of machines suspended in the air. We never learn what functions this business performs, and Simon himself may scarcely know. Amid all of this bleakness, a source of hope arises in the form of Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), a copy girl within the company, for whom Simon yens - though he can barely summon the moxie to speak with her. Then Simon's doppelganger materializes. Called James Simon (Eisenberg again), he seems to possess all of the qualities Simon James lacks, including confidence, suaveness with Hannah, a flair for business, and an ability to make enormous strides at work. Before long, James seems poised to take over Simon's life. This picture may have been adapted by Eyoade and Avi Korine from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel of the same title, but it finds more recent pop culture antecedents in Terry Gilliam's sci-fi comedy Brazil, Michael Radford's Orwell adaptation 1984 (the brilliant production design by Joseph Crank echoes both movies), and - in its premise - the 1946 Walt Disney cartoon short "Donald's Double Trouble," where Disney's stuttering, tongue-tied mallard has his love, Daisy, stolen by an identical twin, and must wrest his life back. This is a fun conceit with an enormous amount of comedic and dramatic mileage to be tapped from it. Unfortunately, Eyoade's direction - reportedly so satisfying in his cult hit Submarine - here comes across as maladroit; he seldom sets up and delivers his gags effectively on camera, so we're forced to look beyond the sophomoric execution and laugh solely at the concepts on display, which is a lot to ask of an audience. For example, an opening scene has Simon struggling to leave a subway car to greet Hannah, but he repeatedly gets immobilized by oncoming passengers, each one carrying an enormous brown box onto the train. A funny idea, though the dramatic blocking and the facial reactions from Eisenberg don't ring true - there are enormous gaps left in-between the actors, so that anyone (confident or not) could easily stroll in-between the men, and Eisenberg pantomimes very broadly here; nothing about his response to the situation feels credible. Nor are Eyoade's visual storytelling skills up to par; one of the central story motifs, for example, involves Simon watching Hannah through a telescope in his apartment, and observing how each evening, she ritualistically draws an illustration, tears it up, and throws it into the incinerator. On a nightly basis, Simon races down to the boiler room to retrieve the scraps of paper before they burn. Again: it's an inspired concept,, although the shot choices are so poorly done that we initially have a difficult time ascertaining what is going on. Nor is the narrative here ideally conceived; it's irritating, for example, that Ayoade and Korine waffle between enabling the supporting characters to discern between Simon and James, or not, depending on the needs of the scene at hand; the twists in the story seem born out of convenience. And if the setup and initial stages of the picture feel awkward and disappointing, the conclusion strikes one as so overwrought and complicated that the film becomes totally hopeless. We get two Eisenbergs running around and switching places and experiencing different fates, and cannot tell who is who; it's about as clear of a denouement as the finale of Andrzej Zulawski's Possession, with its multiple Sam Neills all suffocating and wreaking havoc on Isabelle Adjani. The Double is a particularly disappointing film because it seemed so full of promise and surely must have looked like a dream project on the page. Eisenberg and Wasikowska do what they can, but the execution is too poor to send the movie aloft.