The first line of dialogue in Richard Ayoade's first film as a director, "Submarine," is "Most people like to think of themselves as individuals." The last line in his follow-up, "The Double," is "I like to think I'm unique." In both cases, these statements are left hanging as open questions.

"The Double," a playful yet respectful adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novella of the same name, offers both possibilities. We are not unique, just one of many worker drones trapped in the commute-cubicle-condo loop; we're highly replaceable, specks in the urban swarm; and at the same time there is something essential about us that resists this anonymity and desperately asserts our individuality. It's this tension between detachment and desire that drives the film.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon James, a tongue-tied nobody whose presence at work barely registers with his boss (Wallace Shawn), while his crush on printing clerk Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) is so tepidly expressed it pings off unnoticed. Simon mopes and cowers — Eisenberg is an expert at flustering — loathing his timidity yet too shy to do anything about it. One day a new hire arrives at the office, James Simon (also Eisenberg), who could be his twin except he's everything Simon is not: outgoing, aggressive, socially adapted and scheming.