Enemy (2014)

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Dennis Villeneuve’s latest, “Enemy,” is seemingly shrouded in secrecy. Amongst the remnants of Villeneuve’s last film, high-profile crime-thriller “Prisoners,” this mysterious piece of suspenseful anti-existentialism took form and emerged from the shadows. Blending staggeringly beautiful camerawork, the lovely Toronto skyline muddled in a glowing haze, and marvellously haunting performances from the entire cast, “Enemy” quite handily manages to stimulate, stump, and shock. With Hitchcock-like suspense, an atmosphere akin to classic David Lynch, and a skin-crawling metamorphosis that would make Kafka proud. “Enemy” stands not only as a sufficiently fulfilling thriller, but a nerve-shredding, confident, worthy art-house piece in the ranks of its inspirations.

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A flick that’s as much an exercise in problem solving as it is a piece of art, a lot like a puzzle or a mathematical game of deciphering a pattern or code. “Enemy” is about as complex as they come, never ceasing to challenge the viewer with a barrage of variables, twists and turns. It’s an equation comprised of shapeless pieces that intertwine to form a web on the grandest scale.

Based on “The Double” by Jose Saramago, “Enemy” was adapted for the screen by Javier Gullon and directed by the aforementioned Dennis Villeneuve. Shot on location in Toronto, this modern-day fable stars Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual role, Melanie Laurent, and Sarah Gadon.

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Adam (Gyllenhaal) is a history professor who is slowly becoming more and more disinterested in the world and people surrounding him. Even his girlfriend Mary (Laurent) can’t seem to hold his attention outside of the bedroom in his gloomy, run-down apartment. On a recommendation, Adam decides to pick up a local film at a nearby video store, perhaps a last attempt at salvaging his humanity. Later that night, while Mary sleeps alone in the next room, Adam has reluctantly become entranced by the low-budget flick. Then, while lost in a deep sleep, Adam has a dream heavily influenced by the movie, so much so that Adam begins to see himself in the picture. Awakening frightened, he revisits the film to find that it wasn’t himself he was seeing in his dream, but an extra that resembles himself exactly. Stunned, Adam becomes obsessed with his look-alike and eventually searches out his identical being.

Enemy (2013)

Anthony (Gyllenhaal) is an aspiring actor who is expecting his first child with his lovely wife Helen (Gadon). The two are looking for a fresh start after some turbulence early on in their relationship. Having recently moved to a respectable apartment, one could conclude that this new place of residence is a symbol of their relationship’s rejuvenation. One day, Helen receives a bizarre phone call from someone who sounds exactly like her husband Anthony. As days pass, the phone calls persist, which Anthony now handles in private. Letting speculation get the best of her, Helen demands Anthony reveal the nature of the calls. Anthony informs his wife that it is nothing but a bizarre man claiming to be a big fan of his films. Fully aware of the trust issues his marriage has sustained, Anthony decides to keep the true nature of the calls from his wife, that Adam is on the other end, clamouring to be Anthony’s doppelgänger.

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I know it may appear as if I’ve somewhat spoiled the film with the previous summarization, but I assure you, the information I’ve provided you with is merely the premise. I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of “Enemy” and that’s the way it’ll have to stay in order for you, the reader, to thoroughly experience and discover its depths. That being said, I can tell you that what follows will undoubtedly leave a fair amount of viewers on the opposite side of the fence. “Enemy” is a complex, intricate beast that’ll leave you begging for a second viewing. It’ll keep you up at night, reading, thinking about every aspect of its veiled misdirection, dialogue, and symbolism. You won’t be able to view “Enemy” and then simply sit it on a shelf, it requires ambitious follow-up.

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While I can’t reveal “Enemy’s” secrets, I can describe to you Dennis Villeneuve’s mastery is on display throughout this film. However, if I’m to be honest, this is the first film of Villeneuve’s I’ve seen. That being said, after viewing “Enemy,” I can assure you his catalogue is on my radar.

Now, what I found most impressive is Villeneuve’s ability to shift seamlessly from the large-scale stuff down to the minuscule. Through his lens, we span across a luminous smog and an achromatic pallet that has Toronto looking menacing and infinite. Then, a few shots down the road, we’re locked, engulfed in a dark and dreary apartment, watching two men and their identities crumble under what defines them, or lack there of. Villeneuve somehow manages to create this rapidly rising claustrophobia through intimate settings and predicaments, like travelling on a streetcar or partaking in compassionate sex. A vulnerable helplessness, inescapability that gives us a distinct vantage point to our own importance and insignificance that is truly remarkable. Without question some of the finest camerawork and direction I’ve ever seen.

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It’s always a visual treat for viewers when an actor tackles multiple roles in a film, and quite a challenge for the one who has undertaken it. Still, I feel most filmmakers and actors haven’t fully capitalized on the double premise…until now.

On one hand, sitting on a motorcycle sporting a devilishly handsome and intimidating beard while wearing a black leather jacket, we have Jake Gyllenhaal’s Anthony. A cold, pretentious, opportunistic predator bordering narcissistic. Conversely, lounging around his crappy apartment, unkempt, grading papers, and forcing himself on his girlfriend, we have Gyllenhaal’s Adam. A pessimist and reluctant narcissist, who’s soul just might still be salvageable. Two vastly different characters comprised of a single man’s brilliance. Gyllenhaal, who’s wowed us in the past with “Donnie Darko” and “Source Code,” gives a career defining performance…twice. Even if you find yourself flabbergasted, obsessed, or just plain infuriated by “Enemy,” there’s no denying Gyllenhaal’s triumph.

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The characters of Mary and Helen are a level of bizarre all on their own, mirroring one another, although not to the same extent of Adam and Anthony. Melanie Laurent (Mary), arguably portraying the sanest character in the film, does what she can with her limited dialogue and screen time. Had Mary been more crucial to the story instead of merely being an oblivious pawn, Laurent would have been allowed to stun as we should expect. Nonetheless, Laurent is as radiant and invested as always. Sarah Gadon (Helen) has drawn possibly the most intriguing character in the film, which I cannot explain due to spoilers. Regardless, this gorgeous rising star continues to improve and hone her craft while building a very respectable repertoire.   Immaculate performances by the entire ensemble, through and through.

Featuring a transfixing musical score, stunning visuals, immensely impressive performances, and dread that reaches its pinnacle at the terrifying ending. “Enemy” is a taut, entertaining, slow-burning thriller that we’ll be discussing and revisiting for a good, long while.

Enemy: 9 out of 10.

About Joseph@thecinemamonster

Aspiring writer who absolutely adores film and television. thecinemamonster.com

Posted on March 18, 2014, in Thriller and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.

  1. This sounds really good!

  2. Great review, man. One of my most anticipated films of the year and so glad to see it’s good! Villeneuve is amazing; loved Incendies and Prisoners. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in that one was my favorite supporting turn of 2013. Superb and so, so underrated.

    • Thanks so much, Fernando!! Your anticipation of this flick is well placed. An excellent flick! If you’re a fan of Gyllenhaal and Villeneuve, you won’t go home disappointed. Easily my favourite film of 2014 so far :).

      • That’s high praise! Can’t wait to see it. Gyllenhaal deserved an Oscar win, let alone a nomination, for his job in Prisoners.

      • Still haven’t seen Prisoners! Not a big fan of its premise, length, and Jackman, or Howard for that matter. I do love Gyllenhaal however, and Jackman is outstanding in The Prestige, which is one of my all time favourites. I’ll give it a chance, hopefully this weekend :).

      • Yeah, it’s a bit overlong but pretty solid. Howard is very good but Jackman and Gyllenhaal are just superb. They give their best performances EVER in Prisoners, so I hope you see it soon.

  3. I need to track this down! It sounds right up my street! Great review

  4. Great review for a film that seems to have much potential. I can’t wait to see it! :)

  5. Looks fantastic. Love this kind of movie. Love that poster too. Great review Joseph.

  6. Great review! There’s a film coming out soon in the UK (and maybe elsewhere) called The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg as both a man and his doppelgänger. Weird timing, eh?

    Adam.

  7. Great review man. I had heard absolutely nothing about this until I stumbled on the trailer the other day. Really excited for it now. I bloody love that poster as well.

  8. Such a high score! It must have lived up to expectations then! Absolutely brilliant review Joseph. I hope we get this sometime soon, I must say I have been looking forward to it. Sold on Jake Gyllenhaal alone!

    Didn’t you see Prisoners? Still not? Even after all the pestering that Eric and I went through? :P

    • I even contemplated giving it an even higher score, but settled with a score that’s irrefutable. I don’t know how to put it, but, this movie felt like it was made for me. Combining everything I love into a movie lol.

      No, I haven’t watched it, I will get on it this weekend :). I shall report back to you first with my thoughts ;). Thanks Zoe :).

  9. OK you made me want to see this movie! sold

  10. Awesome write up mate. This is the second hugely positive review of this I’ve read. It wasn’t really on my radar at the start of the year but I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for it.

  11. Wow, immediately before this I read a review saying it’s bad, and have it 2 out of 5. Now this! Do i watch it or not?! Haha

  12. I just crossed over to Canada to see this at Windsor tonight and I was not disappointing. I’m still trying to unravel it, but I developed a pretty solid theory during the last 10 minutes. Would be interested to hear your thoughts but I wanted to keep this comment spoiler free obviously! I’ll be reviewing it tomorrow.

    • That’s insane! You came to Canada to watch this flick? How far exactly? If you don’t mind me asking :). I’ve got my theories as well, look forward to checking out your take when you post the review!

      • Oh it’s not nearly as crazy as it sounds – I work downtown Detroit, so it only took me 25 minutes to get to the mall in Windsor. But I’ll just tell people that I went all the way to Canada to watch a movie and leave it at that. Sounds cooler!

  13. I’m really interested in this one and I’m a big fan of Melanie Laurent. She is an actress who I would love to see get bigger roles and more recognition here in the states.

  14. Okay! Done! I’m going to travel further to see this ;) Looks way too awesome to miss! :) Awesome review!

  15. Victor De Leon

    This sounds amazing. Must see this one. It appears like a stunning visual treat. Thanks for the review. This one slipped by me. Excellent work, my man ;) (Oh and yeah, that poster is kick ass)

    • Thank you Vic for always stopping by :). The poster is so cool, but the flick is all the more awesome. Really hope you get to check this out soon. Look forward to reading your thoughts on it :).

      • Victor De Leon

        I have a bud who gets a ton of Screeners and I’ll ask him if he has a copy. I hope to track it down somehow. It isn’t playing where I live. Thanks again!

  16. Beautifully written! I saw the movie last night, loved it, but it’s making my brain hurt. I’m writing my theory on what happened and I’m continuously going ‘oh, wait, but…’. Such great puzzle.

  17. Excellent review Joseph. I was surprisingly impressed with Villneauve’s Prisoners last year but this one sounds even more up my street. I love these types of film where you really have to use your noodle. Count me in! Can’t wait to see it.

  1. Pingback: Review: Enemy (2013) | The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger

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