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Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy is both one of the most satisfying experiences and terrifying experiences I’ve had in a movie theater in a really long time. From the strange opening scene of a group of men watching a woman masturbate, to the final image that about defies any expectations going in, this doppelgänger thriller is sure to puzzle and amaze viewers for years to come. Loosely based off of the novel, “The Double”, by José Saramago, the Toronto based film is set in present day, where Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam Bell, a history teacher that leads a pretty boring routine. He goes to work, he goes home to grade papers and then his girlfiend, Mary (Mélanie Laurent), comes over to have sex, then leaves. One day, a co-worker tells him to watch an entertaining movie that he’s seen, when he spots an actor, that is the spitting image of himself. He begins to investigate and tries to find out everything about this other self and he finds out that he’s an actor named Anthony St. Clair, who lives in the same city as him, is married and leads a much different life than his own. The two meet and things begin to get a bit strange, as their lives begin to intertwine and the audience is left wondering who’s really in control and the evil that men are capable of.
From its yellow tinted cinematography, to its incredible performances by Gyllenhaal in both leads, Enemy is a disturbing and haunting thriller that would shake anyone to their core. Denis Villeneuve offers a film that is full of surreal imagery and brutal tension, that stays with you for the entirety of its running time. Gyllenhaal’s nuanced performance brings both men to life, where Adam is presented as an introverted school teacher with his own set of issues, as well as Anthony, an Alpha-male, who has marital problems, due to infidelity. From the very beginning of the film, Enemy is presented as a puzzle, due to one direct quote from Saramago’s book itself, “Chaos is Order yet undeciphered”. This permeates through the entirety of the film, due to its reoccurring spider motifs and actions between both characters. Where his previous effort, Prisoners, was presented as a straight forward film, Enemy is the exact opposite of that. This film isn’t for everyone and even if you do watch it, one must be prepared to play by the films own set of rules.
While the rest of the cast is small, many of the other characters are used quite well. Sarah Gadon, who plays Anthony’s wife Helen, offers a solid performance as someone who genuinely is frightened at the possibility of Anthony having a doppelgänger. While she’s only in a single scene, Isabella Rossellini manages to provide a tender moment between Adam and his mother. The only major complaint that I would have from the cast would be the misuse of Mélanie Laurent and her lack of character. For everyone that’s witnessed Laurent in any roles, people know that she’s a stellar actress, but Villeneuve uses her only for her looks and places her in a role that is solely based as an object of desire. While she motivates Anthony to take advantage of the situation and of Adam, it still would have been nice to see her character used in a much stronger way.
Enemy is sure to perplex many, but even as frustrating as it can be, the film offers a stellar look into duality and the evil that men are capable of. Denis Villeneuve has crafted a well made thriller, that is sure to remain with its audience, well after its over.