Enemy (2013) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay: Javier Guillon (based on the book by Jose Saramago)
Review published April 16, 2014
Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies) directs this loosely surreal Javier Guillon (The Boy Who Smells Like Fish, Invader) adaptation of the 2002 Jose Saramago novel, "The Double." Some viewers will see tangential similarities to the works of Toronto filmmaker David Cronenberg, and won't be surprised to learn that Montreal-based director Villeneuve has decided to set his film there. Spider motifs abound, and Cronenberg also directed a film with such motifs, in the aptly named Spider, as well as a film about doppelgangers in Dead Ringers. There's also a car crash in the film, which echoes Cronenberg's own Crash. Other viewers note a bit of David Lynch in the mix as well, and will not be surprised to see the inclusion of Blue Velvet's Isabella Rossellini in the cast. Nothing is a coincidence in this cinema-literate effort.
Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch, Source Code) stars as Adam Bell, an introverted Toronto-based history professor who learns after renting a locally made movie one evening that one of the bit players in the movie is a dead ringer for him. Bell tracks down the more outgoing actor, whose real name is Anthony Clair, and tries to coerce a meeting between them both, though events eventually lead to him regretting the decision. However, the two lives, once connected, prove impossible to disentangle, and things begin to get quite a bit more complicated for them both.
Enemy is the sort of film that may put off mainstream moviegoers, who will probably think the film is one slow crawl to nothing, but will no doubt fascinate film buffs who enjoy watching enigmatic movies multiple times in order to try to decipher their meaning. To them, Enemy will likely prove the most rewarding, as it all seems to be a bit befuddling when trying to take the story in as a straightforward narrative, but when thinking of the main characters in terms of a psychological schism, it begins to come together, especially when viewed as a man having to come to grips with his own guilt due to infidelity and fear stemming from feeling trapped and controlled.
If you're not planning on giving Enemy your undivided attention, you're probably going to find yourself frustrated, as it is a film that seeks to challenge its viewers with a skewed narrative. Villeneuve and Guillon have crafted a beguiling film to leave you to try to piece together as it goes along, as we try to judge whether Adam and Anthony are two separate people, if they are separated at birth, or if they're the same person who has somehow developed into two separate entities, each with his or her strengths and weaknesses, a la Captain Kirk in the similarly titled "Star Trek" episode, "The Enemy Within". I have my own theories, but hesitate to mention them as they would not only constitute spoilers, but also would ruin the enjoyment of trying to piece together Enemy on your own.
Regardless of how you choose to view this somewhat abstract film, the answers aren't handed to you on a platter, which is precisely why, if you're sufficiently invested enough in the drama, you'll likely want to watch it again to try to piece all of the clues together not long after your first viewing.
©2014 Vince Leo