What’s It About? Adam is a high-school teacher in a relationship that’s coming to an end, when he spots his exact doppelgänger in a film. This gives him purpose, and he sets about tracking down this man, Anthony. Anthony lives with his pregnant wife, and engages Adam in a dangerous game. Jake Gyllenhaal takes on both roles in what director Denis Villeneuve describes as ‘an existential erotic thriller’.
Verdict: Based on Jose Saramago’s novel ‘The Double’, this actually marks the first collaboration of Gyllenhaal and director Villeneuve – though the subsequently filmed Prisoners was released far in advance of this, which can be explained by the fact that this film is not so popcorn-friendly. Whilst Prisoners was very palatable for the mainstream audience, Enemy is likely to intrigue but frustrate.
Theories on the film’s meanings will remain undiscussed in this review, as doing so would spoil the viewing process and give too much away of the plot, and it’s best to go into a film like this open-minded and not looking for a particular interpretation.
Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of both Adam and Anthony is great. He looks the same, but through small mannerisms, movements and wardrobe, we can tell which one we’re watching, and the effect of having the two of them on screen together, which must have been technically difficult, is achieved very successfully. It never feels like they’re trying to get around showing the pair of them together, they simply appear together, like two Jake Gyllenhaals are in the room.
A lot of the film is very subtle and open to interpretation. We can read into body language and lighting the way the characters are feeling, such as Adam’s depression and the identity crisis this journey leads him on.
Though not a funny film, there are a couple of funny moments that arise from trying to track down somebody who looks exactly the same as you do, though many of the behaviours you might expect of somebody in this unusual situation are not present here. This is not exploring what it would be like to meet your double, but instead what it means for both Adam and Anthony.
Neither Adam or Anthony are nice people. There’s no black-and-white ‘one is a nice guy, the other is a villain’, and this probably makes the film more interesting. The girlfriend of Adam (played by Melanie Laurent) and wife of Anthony (Sarah Gadon) are given fairly short-shrift, as the film is really almost entirely about the doppelgängers.
The ending is worth mentioning because it will undoubtedly be polarising. It will probably provide a lot of debate, confusion, fear and annoyance. This is indicative of the film as a whole. It wants to be discussed; to have people pore over the meaning of images or themes of the film, but this ultimately makes it a dissatisfying watch.
This being said, there is a lot of good in the film. As mentioned, Gyllenhaal is terrific as the dual leads. He really is at the top of his game. The films creates a dark, mysterious tone throughout, helped by the score, which is urgent and loud. Many films aim to be discussed and picked apart, and this has certainly achieved that, though perhaps at the expense of being a satisfactory watch.
Final Words: Enemy is a very interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying, thriller.
Gyllenhaal puts in an excellent performance as the two central characters, but the film itself tries a little too hard to pose questions and forgoes enjoyment.
Enemy (15) is released in the UK on 2 January 2015.