“Chaos is order yet undeciphered” is the quote which opens Enemy. Taken from The Double by Jose Saramago, from which Enemy is adapted from, it serves as both something to ponder and a warning for the somewhat undecipherable material to come. My review of Enemy after the jump.
Associate professor Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is stuck in a bit of a rut. His life is beige and his daily routine doesn’t seem to alter. He has a gorgeous girlfriend (Mélanie Laurent) who never stays over, but you can hardly blame her when his apartment is so sparsely furnished and unwelcoming. In a rare interaction with a colleague he is recommended a film, which he duly rents and watches at home. While watching the film he spots something which makes his heart stop – his own face is starting back at him. An actor in the film appears to be his double, his doppelgänger and Adam becomes obsessed with finding out exactly who he is.
A large part of what makes Enemy so great is not knowing exactly what is going on. It’s the sort of film you have to just run with and accept that it isn’t going to give up the answers so easily. The tense, unsettling atmosphere in Enemy keeps you on your toes throughout and you experience the paranoia and uneasiness along with the characters. With a creepy score and extremely gloomy setting, it almost feels as if you’ve been thrown into a good old-fashioned horror. Villeneuve has really crafted a disturbing mind game here.
Gyllenhaal is masterful as both Adam and Anthony Clair, giving them enough in common for it to be uncanny, but enough differences in mannerisms, body language, etc, for us to be able to tell them apart. It’s a pair of incredibly measured, intense performances. Laurent and Gadon are well cast as Adam and Anthony’s respective partners, while Rossellini’s smalls screen-time makes an impact.
The real star of Enemy is the element of surprise. Mind-bending themes, baffling imagery and shocking plot twists mean you never quite know where the story is going, or what exactly it all means. It’s the sort of film that marinates in your mind and you’ll find yourself thinking about it at odd hours of the night, particularly the way it goes out on suck a bonkers note. There are rich themes underpinning much of the film, but it might take more than one watch to extract them all.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer(s): José Saramago (based on the novel by), Javier Gullón
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini
Runtime: 90 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: VOD, DVD & Blu-ray from July 9 2014; New Zealand: Plays as part of the 2014 New Zealand Film Festival.