“Enemy,” an art house thriller from director Denis Villeneuve and actor Jake Gyllenhaal, is an intriguing head scratcher that plays more like an existential puzzle than a traditional narrative.
When we first meet him the “Brokeback Mountain” star plays a history professor named Adam Bell. When not lecturing in class, he leads a normal, if somewhat repetitive life with his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent). One night while watching a rented movie he is astonished to see someone who looks exactly like him on screen.
After some research he discovers the actor’s name is Anthony St. Claire (Gyllenhaal) and that he lives in Toronto’s west end. Spooky similarities arise. Both have beautiful blonde significant others—Sarah Gadon plays Helen, Anthony’s six-months pregnant wife—but there’s more. Both even have a scar on their chests.
Adam and his doppelganger have completely opposite personalities, but their lives become intertwined when Anthony becomes interested in Mary and duo struggles to discover what connection they have.
“Enemy” is the kind of movie that, if it grabs you, you’ll want to see it twice to try and make sense of some of the more narratively opaque sections. If the slow build of existential dread doesn’t grab you, however, one viewing will be more than enough.
But, as Hunter S. Thompson used to say, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” In other words “Enemy” is a challenge, a film that revels in its confounding story. Like Polanski on downers, it’s willfully difficult, taking the audience down a rabbit hole deep into the psyche of these unrelated twins. It’s a long strange journey with many rewards for the attentive viewer.
One of those rewards is Gyllenhaal’s interesting and varied work. He plays two parts of one person’s personality, but creates fully formed individual characters that, even though they are identical looking, are much different in the way they tick.
“Enemy” is stylish and sinister (with a big tasty dollop of mystery on the side) that will keep audiences guessing long after they’ve left the theatre.