Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Enemy review

A man lives a repetitious, dull life. By day he teaches history. By night he grades papers and has loveless sex with his girlfriend. His apartment is gray and cramped. One night he rents a movie, via a recommendation from a colleague. He notices something odd about the film. One of the actors in it looks exactly like him. Thus starts the eerie turn of events that comprise Enemy, the newest movie by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. I can already tell Villeneuve is a great director, having seen his very excellent Prisoners (also starring Jake Gyllenhaal) last year. Prisoners was a very straightforward movie. Enemy is not. Enemy is what you would get if David Fincher and David Lynch had a movie love child. It's dark, gritty, and brooding. It's also really, really strange. There's one scene where a naked woman with the head of a spider walks down a hallway. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a dream sequence either. One of the many interesting things about Enemy is that Jake Gyllenhaal plays the two main roles, Adam and Anthony. I consider Gyllenhaal one of the most talented actors working in cinema today. He's been really great in some really great stuff like Donnie Darko, End of Watch, and Brokeback Mountain. He's just as good, if not better here. Gyllenhaal shows us he can play sad schmuck or sneering villain. Melanie Laurent plays his blonde foreign girlfriend. She proved herself to be a wonderfully capable actress in Inglorious Basterds. Unfortunately, she's not given much to do here. It's not a huge problem, considering the movie's not about her, but I do feel her potential is being wasted a little. What I really liked here is how the two guys are shown. At first the two identical men seem quite similar in personality. As the film progresses it becomes quite clear that one has much more malicious intentions. Like an evil twin, if you will. The two become like split personalities of the same person. Although the film hints at prospects like the men being brothers or just simply insane, it never lets the answer be that easy. Why exactly do these two men look exactly alike is never directly addressed. Immediately after viewing I went online to try and find a reputable analysis of the film. I found one that was quite good and believable. While this was fun, I don't recommend doing it. Let the film soak in your mind for a while and create your own theories before looking one up. It's more fun that way. I haven't seen any of Villeneuve's other films besides this and Prisoners, but I can already see a style forming. His films seem to often poke at moral questions without being too outright about them. The story and atmosphere is often filled with noir elements. If he plays his card right he could very well be the next David Fincher. His direction here is really great. Villeneuve keeps the air of tension so tight throughout the film. I often had to remind myself to breathe. The cinematography certainly helped this. The feel of this film is something like A Serious Man meets Zodiac. That combination works extremely well for the film. Giving it a very claustrophobic vibe often characterized by horror films. I don't think I noticed too many of the clues about the true nature of the film on my first viewing because I was too drawn into the plot tension. I definitely think a second viewing would benefit me greatly. A bit of the tension would be stripped away and I could really delve into the film fully. I do think that's the sign of a great movie, when one wants to watch it again soon after the first viewing. A24 films, which released this, also released the very awesome Under the Skin earlier this year. Those are two of what have the potential to be some of the best films this year. Releasing this great experimental semi-small budget sort of indie flicks is obviously really working for them and I hope they keep it going. The film world could use a few more movies like Enemy and Under the Skin and a few less like The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Enemy isn't for everyone. It's weird and alienating, but it's also awesomely cerebral and well done. I do recommend it, but be wary going in. You're in for quite the experience. Happy Viewing everyone. You can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at            


  1. Good review Whit. Very confusing and strange, but it always interested me. Maybe that was the reason why? Oh well, whatever. It worked for me.

    1. Thanks Dan! I think that's why it worked got me. I'm definitely with you there.