Enemy is the newest film by Denis Villeneuve, one of the two film collaborations with Jake Gyllenhaal this year (the other being the well-received and well-casted psychological thriller, Prisoners). In its own vein, Enemy is another film that hinders on suspense, be it a more trippy experience. Based on the 2002 novel “The Double” by José Saramago about a man who is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with a man who looks exactly like him, Enemy centers on the interesting relationship of the four main characters (but is there really four?) and represents one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best roles to date.
What is great about this film is that Villeneuve ventures out of the lines of a straight adaptation of the novel and confounds this already dark and moody story with Fight Club-esque psychology and unsettling surrealism. And with that, with probably five minutes of new art house material that bookends the film and a couple of small deletions from the main novel plot, Villeneuve creates a unique experience all his own and shapes a very different kind of story. This is a film that is its own amazingly weird entity, that feeling of something undetectable crawling on your skin captured on-screen.
In Enemy we come to met two, bearded Gyllenhaals, identical in look but different in personality and lifestyle. One is a slubby, slack-wearing college history professor named Adam Bell who spends his days teaching various lessons on how history repeats itself and his nights grading papers in his dimly lit, barely furnished Toronto apartment only paying enough attention to his girlfriend (Mélanie Laurent) to have sex with her. The other is a swagger, a leather jacket wearing, motorcycle-riding D-list actor named Anthony Claire with a propensity to cheat on his pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon) who somehow can afford a swanky high-rise apartment.
It’s Adam who first discovers Anthony’s existence as “Bellhop #3” in a movie recommended by a co-worker called There’s a Will, There’s a Way. And so begins Adam’s frightening need to seek out Anthony and his regret after finding him as well as Anthony’s growing obsession to use Adam to escape the confines of his own life by briefly taking his identify. Throughout the whole film, the audience is left to decide whether Adam and Anthony are in fact the same person or whether there is some other explanation, whether each knows more than they are letting on, and how exactly the women in their lives, who disturbingly resemble each other, fit into the puzzle. Couple that with a mysterious, seedy underground club which the audience only catch glimpses of at the film’s beginning of which may just hold all the answers to the film’s last moments that will have you gasping and then wondering what you just witnessed (in a good way).
Final Verdict: With a narrative that is weird yet wonderful, it may certainly divide audiences, however Enemy is a film that should be celebrated for stepping outside of the conventional and commanding its own kind of attention. Jake Gyllenhaal is so great here, defining with body language, diction, and attitude two distinctly different people and never blurring the line between then. What could easily have been an exercise in overacting, is an acting triumph for an actor not really known to take on such eccentric material. Gyllenhaal is set up to carry this film, and he does it so well and with such ease.