Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Javier Gullón
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sara Gadon and Isabella Rossellini
Denis Villeneuve has made a name for himself as a director of smart and thought-provoking sci-fi with Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and the upcoming Dune. Before that he made Enemy, a film that deals with commitment, reflections and a recurring motif of spiders.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) plays Adam Bell, a history professor who is disillusioned with his life. To break his routing he rents a film that one of his co-workers recommends. After watching it, he notices that one of the actors, Anthony Claire (also played by Gyllenhaal) is a spitting image of himself. Adam starts to become obsessed with finding out about his mirror image and starts stalking him.
The first half an hour of Enemy where the mystery is unfolding, and Adam Bell is becoming obsessed with his doppelganger is captivating. The story grabs your attention with its melancholic tone and it’s creeping atmosphere that starts with the bizarre opening scene, featuring a woman, in only high heels, standing on a tarantula. It’s the next forty or so minutes where the film becomes mind-numbingly boring. They both become obsessed with each other and that’s about it. The film does pick up towards the end, but that middle section drags on and on with seconds feeling like minutes. It feels so padded out just to get the central idea to ninety minutes in length. Yes, there is some beautiful direction, cinematography, and the film does raise some interesting questions during the second act, but it fails to do so while being engaging. The score, by Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is chilling, setting a sombre mood throughout with it’s quiet and drifting feel.
The first act has a unique feel to it, as does the ending, of being on the brink of disaster, but it’s just not kept up for the entire run time. Jake Gyllenhaal is great and does capture both characters to such a degree that most of the time you can tell which one he’s playing by the way they move and hold themselves. The ending is such a shock, that it does make it worth watching through to the final moments. It leaves you with more questions than it answers, and everyone will find something different in it. Villeneuve has himself said that you can make your own mind up about what’s happening and that there isn’t really a concrete answer.
Enemy raises some interesting questions, and the first half hour and final twenty minutes are something unique and . It’s just the middle part feels like an eternity that even a stunning performance from Jake Gyllenhaal can’t save.