“Enemy” is masterful. Fully admitting to being hyperbolic at times I assure you that I am being rather restrained with the choice of that adjective. It is haunting, effective and narcotic, drawing you helplessly into the world of 2 identical men, Adam and Anthony, both played to perfection by Jake Gyllenhaal. “Enemy” was directed by Denis Villeneuve who was the force behind last year’s “Prisoners,” a good, solid suspenseful film. With “Enemy” however Villeneuve proves himself to be capable of exquisite sublime efficiency in his film-making. “Enemy” has a quiet subtlety married with a deep unnerving intensity that holds you rapt in its grip every single minute of the film. There is nothing extraneous here and everything – every scene, every word of the spare dialogue, every glance and gesture is important and, well, perfect. It is a puzzle into which you are dropped and gain no footing because you never were on solid ground to begin with. It is a film which you experience beyond merely watching.
“Enemy” is the story of Adam Bell, a lethargic history professor at a university. Living alone in a bleak minimal apartment his life is total redundancy. Same lecture, same clothes, same screw with his girlfriend. The weight of his monotonous life and daily grind is cloaked in a non-palette of beiges, a brownish gray haze which permeates all of his environments. We the viewer actually feel in a visceral way the claustrophobia of the prison which he has created for himself. And it does not feel good I can assure you. Deviating from his routine one night, he watches a film in which he sees an actor who looks just like him. That, precious viewer, is all you will get from me on plot. Anymore and I will have gone too far. The viewer’s inability to get said footing, to feel confident about the nature of relationships and their interrelatedness is what makes this film so superior. I hesitate to bring up any comparison but the one which comes to mind is “Memento” although the frantic rush of that film is a far cry from the slow hypnotism of “Enemy.” It bears mentioning that both Adam and Anthony press us to question whether they are sympathetic characters or not. Can we feel for them? Do we like them? The answer to those questions are a moving target – part of what makes the film so skillful and potent.
I have always been highly focused on cinematography, perhaps to too large a degree. That’s arguable. But in “Enemy” I cannot imagine a better vantage point and filter than that which has been created by Nicolas Bolduc. Bolduc is, like Villeneuve, a Quebec native and his vision is sublime, skilled and tight. I have not seen his previous efforts but I look forward to his evolving work. Jake Gyllenhaal has always been adept at portraying somewhat disturbed, haunted souls, but he has gained maturity and with it the ability to be both disturbing and compelling. I felt that Gyllenhaal was the best part of “Prisoners” with his subtle tics and an obvious secret we are never let on to, and here too he is a man with a secret. The supporting cast features Melanie Laurent whom we first saw in “Inglorious Bastards,” and in contrast here is a present but not vivid character, and Sarah Gadon whose slightly alien other worldly beauty serves her role perfectly. Have some coffee or tea, (for God’s sake not a cocktail), grab a highly analytical friend and revel in the brain ride of “Enemy.”
Cinemynx Movie Review Enemy