First-time director Giuseppe Capotondi’s The Double Hour is one of the most twisty, curvy romantic crime thrillers imaginable—and that’s both what’s good and what’s … well, not quite so good about it. The film’s truth-or-illusion hook is also its problem. It’s not only a little too worried about being clever, it’s never quite as clever as it thinks it is. Unlike some of the film’s detractors (who are in the minority), I don’t think the film actually cheats, nor did I find it hard to follow, especially once it passed its biggest twist. In fact, past a certain point it didn’t surprise me very much. This isn’t to say I didn’t like the film. I did. But up to that point, I was much closer to loving it than I ended up being.
This is a very plot-driven film—perhaps the most plot-driven film I’ve seen since Tell No One in 2008—and it’s one of those films that’s difficult to discuss without giving away too much. The basic set-up involves a luckless former policeman (now a security specialist), Guido (Filippo Timi), who—after an apparent series of unsatisfying encounters of this sort—meets lonely Slovenian immigrant Sonia (Kseniya Rappoport) through a speed-dating service. It appears that his luck—or maybe their luck—has perhaps changed. At least that seems the case until he takes her to the estate he guards, whereupon they are taken prisoner by burglars who systematically clean out the place. What happens next? Well, that’s what one can’t really address out of fairness to the film.
The film is particularly interesting because its various presentations of reality also allow it a good deal of freedom to play around with genre. In fact, during one extended stretch of the proceedings I thought we were knee-deep in giallo country—that Italian thriller format so beloved by Dario Argento. And I might have been happy enough with that, because I always enjoy the spectacle of audiences finding themselves watching the “sort” of movie that they normally wouldn’t touch with a stick. But The Double Hour isn’t anything that simple. This is simply another of its multiple misdirections—but misdirections that, I should note, always fit into the fabric of the plot once all the pieces are assembled.
Several things set the film apart from the standard thriller format, not the least of which are the striking performances and characterizations of the two leads. There’s an unusually intense emotional kick here. Even when things start falling into place, and it becomes clear that not everything is what it seems, there’s a sense of reality to them. The sense of pain inherent in both Guido and Sonia is almost tangible through the whole of the film.
All in all, the film’s various set-pieces work, though I can’t say much more than that without saying too much. I can, however, note that title is explained—a “double hour” being one those moments on a clock where numbers repeat themselves like 11:11 or 12:12. According to Guido, these are magic, allowing the person who notes them to wish on them like seeing a shooting star. However, he’s quick to note that this purported magic doesn’t work—something worth remembering. Not Rated but contains some nudity, sexuality, language and violence.