A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal, for my money, gave the best performance of 2014 in Dan Gilroy’s terrific ‘Nightcrawler’, and he’s excellent again here in a film that never really makes the most of his dual performances. The film is directed by Denis Villeneuve, who also directed Gyllenhaal in ‘Prisoners’, and in this, his lead plays a university professor called Adam Bell who discovers his exact double appearing in a film he rents from a local video store, and then sets out to track him down. He discovers the man’s name is Anthony Claire after a bit of investigation, and he starts to stalk him by visiting his office and calling his home, which alerts Anthony’s pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon).
The film is interested in the mirroring of the two characters and it is revealed that they are physically identical, albeit their personalities are significantly different (Adam is reserved and quiet, whereas Anthony is more intense and impulsive), but they do share several other similarities in the way that they are both paranoid, curious and begin to stalk each other in the search for truth. Having watched a lot of David Lynch recently, it’s clear that his films are the biggest influence on Villeneuve here, particularly in the quiet and unsettling mood built up by the overwhelming sound design and the bursts of surrealism throughout.
Overall, the film starts to suffer because it becomes too confusing and doesn’t provide the viewer enough string to hang on to. Films don’t need to be linear and they don’t need to spoon feed the audience answers, but ‘Enemy’ seems to go too far in the other direction and it holds the viewer at too much of a distance to allow you to become emotionally invested in the story. Throughout the film, the increasingly erratic behaviour of Adam and Anthony creates a strong sense of tension that builds to an almost unbearable level as we’re waiting for everything to come to a head, and there’s a thrill in watching Gyllenhaal in both of these roles (as well as Gadon, and Melanie Laurent, who plays Adam’s girlfriend). Things do come to a head but suffice to say the ending is one of the most bizarre conclusions to any film I’ve ever seen, and whilst I try my best not to judge a full film on its ending, it is difficult in a film such as this!
Ultimately, ‘Enemy’ has a lot of interesting ideas at play and Villeneuve has crafted a brooding, psychological thriller, but somewhere along the way he forgets to take the audience on the trip with him.
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini and Sarah Gadon