About a year and a half ago I wrote a short film entitled Paranoia. In the screenplay, which was roughly twenty pages, I wrote about a man who is following another man who is physically identical to him. It was the first screenplay I ever wrote, but I never got around to actually filming the thing. I don’t have to anymore. Somehow, Enemy is a film that crept up on me and serves as a film that is eerily similar to the script I wrote. So while watching it, it felt strangely personal to me. And quite frankly, I admired nearly everything about it.
Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) directs Jake Gyllenhaal in this strange, twisted, and unique thriller set in a relatively small setting. Gyllenhaal plays Adam Bell, a simple university professor who discovers something interesting while watching a film recommended to him by a colleague. One of the supporting actors in the film looks exactly like him. Of course his reaction is to pause the film and rewind just to clarify that what he is seeing is real. It is. After going through the credits of the film and finding out who this man is, he attempts to track him down and understand exactly what is going on. Meanwhile, relationships between a husband and a wife and a mother and a son are becoming shaky. Oh, and also, spiders are there, one towering over the city of Toronto.
It’s a real mind trip, a film designed to be examined by film lovers and film enthusiasts. It isn’t your typical thriller with a beginning, middle, and end and an outcome that resolves all the issues. Instead, what the script does is present an electrifying character study filled with complex issues and unpredictable circumstances. Gyllenhaal, who I thought was Oscar worthy in Prisoners last year, is equally great here. It’s always fascinating when an actor can play two characters in the same movie, especially when those characters are in the same room together. The supporting cast isn’t really worth mentioning, with the exception of Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) who is very good. No, this is Jake Gyllenhaal’s show, and he delivers.
Director Denis Villeneuve brings what he brought to the table with Prisoners last year and that is full throttle direction in just about every regard. The lighting is beautiful (though notably not as good as Roger Deakins’ cinematography in Prisoners), the imagery is haunting, and Gyllenhaal is hypnotic. Villeneuve knows how to craft quality films, and this is no exception. However, the run time of Enemy is only 90 minutes and somehow I found it to be a little less tight and fast paced than Prisoners, which was 150 mins. I adored Prisoners and didn’t find a single moment of that film to be dull or boring. Not that Enemy has dull or boring elements, but at 90 minutes, I didn’t find myself quite as engaged as I was in Prisoners, which is pretty unfortunate. Also, contrary to popular opinion, I found the musical score to be a bit off and I didn’t feel like a lot of the music meshed well with the scenes throughout the film. But that’s just me.
That being said, this is clearly a film designed to startle the audience with dreary and beautiful imagery that definitely stands as metaphorical. Spiders and keys are crucial items that the film offers, and what they represent give it deep and sometimes brilliant underlining themes.
Enemy works as a riveting thriller and a wonderful example of metaphorical cinema. Everything matters, and everything means something. Jake Gyllenhaal is terrific in his second film with director Denis Villeneuve, and even though it isn’t as thrilling or powerful as Prisoners, this is still a cinematic achievement that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who loves movies.Enemy (2014) Rated: R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and language Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent. Writer: Javier Gullon Director: Denis Villeneuve