Director: Denis Villenueve.
Screenplay: Javier Gullón.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini, Joshua Peace, Tim Post, Kedar Brown.
“The last thing you need is meeting strange men in hotel rooms. You already have enough trouble sticking with one woman, don’t you?”
Reportedly made before they collaborated on the impressive vigilante thriller “Prisoners” in 2013, Jake Gyllenhaal and director Denis Villeneuve crafted this fascinating and hugely involving psychological drama. Now that the surrealist master David Lynch has seemingly taken a backseat from filmmaking, it’s promising to see that someone else is able to handle the material that wouldn’t be out of place in his hands.
Mild-mannered history professor Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal), is disillusioned with his life and current partner (Melanie Laurent) and apparently in search of some other fulfilment. On the suggestion of a colleague, he happens to rent a movie one evening and catches a glimpse of a bit-part actor (Gyllenhaal again). He pauses the film for a better look and notices that he shares an identical resemblance to him. After some investigation he decides to meet his doppelgänger but their lives begin to intertwine and the real problems begin.
“Chaos is order yet undeciphered” – pay heed to this opening quote, as well as the opening scene while pondering the complexities of Villenueve’s marvellously twisted, psychological offering. It certainly wont make a whole lot of sense to begin with but it’ll serve you well in trying to decipher just what the hell is going on and even though some will still not fully grasp it, the answers are definitely there. There are plot elements that are better left unexplained but rest assured that this is a film that’s entirely deserving of your time and effort and by doing so, you’ll be thoroughly rewarded.
The destination will leave many perplexed but the beauty of “Enemy” is the intriguingly dreamlike and suspenseful journey. Not unlike the style of David Fincher, Villeneuve chooses to shoot in desaturated colours which adds to the sense of loneliness and detachment and Gyllenhaal delivers some towering work. On the one hand, he leads a empty existence, reflected in his social awkwardness and soulless, repetitive lifestyle while on the other he captures a dark arrogance that counterbalances his characters. Gyllenhaal’s dual role offers many delights as you watch the subtlety of his different mannerisms and without such convincing central performances, the film probably wouldn’t work as well as it does. Kudos to Villeneuve’s as well, though. His adaptation and handling of José Saramago’s compelling, 2002 novel “The Double” is very tight and assured. He keeps the running time short, rarely wasting a moment, and sustains a palpable sense of unease and tension right up until the shocking (and thought provoking) end.
If you could splice Lynch’s “Lost Highway” or “Mulholland Drive” with Fincher’s “Fight Club” while adding a little of Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” then this would be their bastard child. It’s as cerebral and surreal as those aforementioned films and just as good at channeling their similar themes of moral uncertainty…
With an Enemy like this, who needs friends?
Trivia: According to the director, Denis Villeneuve, Javier Bardem was offered the lead role but the actor felt he didn’t suit the character. Christian Bale was also offered the role and he wanted to do it but couldn’t due to scheduling conflicts with other projects.