For my money, Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners was one of the best films of 2013. Needless to say, I was excited to hear that Villeneuve was re-teaming with star Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) for another project, titled Enemy. My interest was further piqued upon learning that it was somewhat of a genre movie. While Enemy isn’t quite on the same level as Prisoners, it’s a great and undeniably interesting film.
Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a college history teacher. He’s going through the motions of life until he notices someone who looks exactly like him in a film. After a little research, he learns the man’s name – Anthony – and sets out on a quest to discover more about him. Upon confronting him, Adam learns that his doppelganger is just as oblivious, albeit more level-headed, about the situation.
That’s all I’ll say about the plot, as the less you know of Enemy’s many twists and turns, the better the viewing experience. The viewer is only as informed as Adam, so every moment is a mystery. Between Villeneuve’s artful direction and a tense score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans (Martha Marcy May Marlene), the picture sustains suspense throughout the duration.
The Twilight Zone-esque work is based on a Portuguese novel named The Double by José Saramago, but Javier Gullón’s script takes many artistic liberties. In fact, the cast members reportedly signed confidentiality agreements to not speak about the film’s symbolism.
Enemy’s ending will be polarizing; there’s no doubt about it. The ambiguous conclusion is likely to leave many scratching their heads, while others will want to immediately rewatch the movie with a new perspective. I fell in the latter category – after the initial shock wore off, at least.
Gyllenhaal is positively superb in the dual roles. Adam and Anthony are two sides of the same coin, and Gyllenhaal nails the subtle nuances between them. The supporting cast is made up of Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) as Adam’s girlfriend, Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis) as Anthony’s wife and Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet) as his mother, all of whom impress.
Equal parts Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch, Enemy is a taut, unique thriller that leaves a lasting impression. Not only does Villeneuve possess a smart visual style, but Enemy’s bewildering final shot proves he’s not afraid to take risks. A lesser filmmaker would pander to the audience, but Villeneuve boldly takes an unconventional route.