“Enemy”

MOVIE REVIEW: “Enemy” stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler [2014], Source Code), Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, Beginners), Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold, Cosmopolis), and Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Death Becomes Her). It is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Dune [2021], Prisoners), with the screenplay being written by Javier Gullón (Aftermath, Treading Water).

When a history professor (Gyllenhaal) discovers he has a movie star doppleganger, he tracks him down, only to realize he has made a grave mistake.

In an effort to see all of Denis Villeneuve’s American catalogue, I got his 2013 mind-thriller, “Enemy.” And boy oh boy, is this one something else…

Jake Gyllenhaal joins forces with Villeneuve once more in this exploration of curiosity and obsession, having worked with the director before on “Prisoners,” which released a year prior. He plays a history professor who meanders through life, void of its zest and merely going through the motions. His love life reflects this, as his girlfriend (Laurent) simply serves as a means of sex and nothing more. Nothing seems to spark excitement in this professor, until one night he watches a movie that stars a familiar face: his own. In an effort to get answers, Gyllenhaal tracks down his movie star doppleganger, only to find that his curiosity will undo him.

Like most of Villeneuve’s films, “Enemy” offers great intrigue. I was drawn in by the concept and was carried away by the magnificent performance of Gyllenhaal, who played two parts; both different in slight ways. He’s one of my all-time favorite actors, and seeing him in this was a sincere treat. The parallels and contrasts he created in the roles of Adam and Anthony were the centerpiece of this obscurity, and through great restraint and reservation, he crafted something truly alluring to observe. All of the performances were like this, as Villeneuve championed subtlty. Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini are the female trifecta surrounding Gyllenhaal, all of which served as a foil to his complex character. Though they seemed fairly normal, I couldn’t help but be slightly put off as this entire experience was somewhat unsettling.

Seeing where this rabbit trail leads is the best part of the feature, and I found myself engaged by the uneasy, droning direction offered by Villeneuve. His tone is established both in the pacing of his scenes (often a slow burn) and the odd symbolism sprinkled throughout the narrative. Its a weird feature, folks. One that involves a spider motif. They’re everywhere, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what they represented. Bonus interviews of Villeneuve and his cast/crew offered some insight, but as a casual viewer it comes off more strange than intellectual. The ending itself will surely make you scratch your head; maybe even frustrate you. As the journey unfolds, it becomes apparent that this is more so an abstract art piece built on a theme than a pointed adventure.

Do I enjoy movies like this? It depends. The brooding, unsettling nature of “Enemy” had my focus locked in for its entirety. I understood a few points the writer was trying to make (it’s based on a book), though the spider element was too heady for me. It works for the style, mind you, just not the story at large. A big question that is asked is if Gyllenhaal is two separate people or the same person, and there are good points for both sides. I believe they are different, as the events that escalate in the third act strongly suggest this. But, I will leave that up to you to decide, should you find yourself turning this on.

“Enemy” is a fascinating thematic turn by Denis Villeneuve. He doesn’t disappoint in both the cinematography and acting departments, as both are strong pros with this release. Gyllenhaal is fantastic and the concept is intriguing, offering a winding trail that will surely keep you glued. Its abstract undertones got the best of it by the end, giving us a conclusion that I didn’t particularly care for (though was searching for an answer). Also, there is a sufficient amount of nudity to make this reviewer uncomfortable. All in all, if you love Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal, you’ll find this at the very least an interesting watch. FINAL SCORE: 76%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

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