For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Dystopian Movies, here’s a review of Enemy (2014) by Tom of Digital Shortbread
Thanks again to James of Back to the Viewer for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by S.G. Liput of Rhyme and Reason. We will be reviewing our favorite fantasy/sci-fi animated movies (non-Disney or Pixar) . Please get me your submissions by 25th May by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org Try to think out of the box! Great choice S.G.!
Let’s see what Tom thought of this movie:
Number of times seen: 1 (March, 2015)
Brief Synopsis: A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie. (IMDb)
My take on it: Jake Gyllenhaal continues proving the theory correct that if you watch a movie with him in it, you’ll at the very least be entertained. In Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to his much-acclaimed (deservedly so) crime thriller Prisoners, he works a double-shift as his role in a dystopian near-future requires him to play two distinct but identical-looking characters.
One of the characters is Adam Bell, a quiet history professor at an unnamed college. He lives a somewhat solitary life that revolves around lecturing about oppressive regimes and dynasties and this and that, and having sex with his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent).
His other role is that of the much more outgoing and borderline aggressive Anthony Claire. Anthony is actually a bit-part actor whom Adam happens to notice in a movie he rents one night on a colleague’s recommendation. Adam notices in fact that he is his doppelgänger and is so disturbed by his appearance that he seeks to track him down and meet him in person. He eventually does, though the encounter doesn’t exactly go as Adam pictured it.
Gyllenhaal, a consummate weirdo in films as of late, is a perfect fit for Villeneuve’s quirky and unsettling drama. The success of Enemy’s headspinning effect depends on how well he can sell both characters. Any time he’s facing himself in a scene the movie becomes a surreal exercise in visual stimulation. Seeing is believing. But is believing what you see necessarily a direct correlation? Ah, and so the rabbit hole deepens. . .
I can’t quite put a finger on how I feel about this film. On the one hand it is superior to a film that was released around the same time, a Richard Ayoade film titled The Double (which is really confusing because Villeneuve’s project is actually based off the book The Double by José Saramago). On the other, it is clear Enemy has no desire to be an accessible bit of entertainment. Is it even entertainment? No film, of course, is obliged to entertain, or bend to an audience’s whims. But this one, given its absolutely bizarre (some might say infuriating) conclusion, comes close to crossing the line into deliberate obtuseness, and a case might be made for pretentiousness as well.
It’s also a quiet and somewhat dramatically inert film that doesn’t get much mileage out of its secondary characters and it gives a slightly misleading impression that the screenplay will span a large environment. That’s less of a problem, all things considered.
But Enemy is rendered in such hauntingly bleak cinematography that it becomes less of a film and more of a dream (or nightmare, depending on your ultimate impression). One look at the film is probably not enough but for this reviewer I had had enough of the interpreting and Wikipedia-researching. I wanted the rabbit hole to stop deepening. From the perspective of disturbing its viewers and leaving an impression, Enemy is a total success. But it’s aggressively enigmatic, and that just won’t do it for a lot of people. Not even Jake Gyllenhaal enthusiasts.
Bottom Line: Enemy is worth a watch if you are a fan of Villeneuve’s previous efforts. It’s certainly not a bad film, per se, but it’s one that offers little help to those who want clear-cut stories and demand that those stories have a resolution. Actually, this film does have one but it’d be a complete spoiler to say what that is. Gyllenhaal is as good as ever in a demanding double role.
Rating: Globe Worthy