Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Godon
Watch Enemy online in the UK: MUBI UK / Curzon Home Cinema / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / iTunes / Google Play
Read our interview with director Denis Villeneuve.
Enemy sees Jake Gyllenhaal play a teacher in a cycle going nowhere. He teaches, he marks, he performs intercoursing with his girlfriend Melanie Laurent, he sleeps alone, he wakes up, he goes to work, he teaches, he marks… But from the start, we have strange diversions from this on-going sequence to some very weird images. As Gyllenhaal’s Adam Bell lectures about the conceit of control, we witness a group of men sitting around a stage, a spider crawling around, and a woman walking and pressing her heel onto the spider.
What? Well, that’s not what Enemy is. Enemy is, in plot form, about a man stuck in a rut, who discovers the exact double of himself when watching a film and gets a little worried and obsessed about tracking this man down. And then the other man, dealing with this news, along with his pregnant wife, who is confused as heck.
If you run into Enemy with the intention of having a nice time with an intense thriller, then it’s not going to completely disappoint. It plays well with the content expected in a simple paranoia film, but as the second and third acts play out, it becomes clear that while Enemy wants you to have the base reaction that sillier, more straight-laced films would create, it also has a PhD in the genre: it turns everything around to various degrees, until you’re both having an entertaining time dealing with what is going on and sitting scratching your head utterly befuddled by what has occurred. Notably, the last shot of the film is both one that elicits laughter and can be a bit annoying in turning a simple conclusion into something much deeper that requires more viewings. Nothing’s simple in Enemy, really.
Visually, it takes a singular form in the guise of a sickly yellow image, wherein buildings tower, streets are empty and long, and humans are just ants in the midst of higher, unseen powers. Even in interior scenes, that yellow tone serves as a reminder that the world is inescapable and unchanging, while any sequence where two Jake Gyllenhaals are on screen are works of balletic beauty. The camera bounces neatly and with life, making the matching of the two performances something rather magical, while Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon and Isabella Rossellini provide excellent support in one-on-one sessions.
Enemy is a highly interesting, entertaining film that goes beyond the means of any other film of its ilk. It has roots deep in art-house cinema as well as mainstream thrillers, without showing those roots for the majority of its runtime. It is a strange beast that requires, nay earns, multiple re-watches – but at a smooth pace that clocks in at 90 minutes, two viewings isn’t too much of a stretch at the end of the holiday season.
Enemy is available on MUBI UK as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription, until 2nd September 2019.
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