Enemy: Double trouble for Jake Gyllenhaal

by Mark Burger

Enemy, and extremely interesting and extremely strange film, reunites Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve with Jake Gyllenhaal, here playing a dual role.

Based on a Jose Saramanges novel, the moody, low-key story follows Adam (Gyllenhaal), a plodding teacher in Toronto who rents a movie and is shocked to see someone who looks exactly like him. That would be Anthony (Gyllenhaal deux), a struggling actor who lives nearby.

Adam is intent on meeting Anthony, and when they do they discover that they are exactly alike. This unnerving realization drives the two men further into obsession, with Adam’s girlfriend (Melanie Laurent), Anthony’s wife (Sarah Gadon) and Adam’s mother (an underused Isabella Rossellini) swept up in this doppelganger dilemma.

Nicolas Bolduc’s cinematography and the Danny Bensi/Saunder Juuriaans score add to the foreboding atmosphere, but despite Gyllenhaal’s committed performance(s), Enemy remains maddeningly elusive. The pieces of the puzzle tend not to fit together – and perhaps that’s intentional, although it certainly dampens the film’s mainstream appeal. Perhaps that’s intentional, too.

The story’s trajectory and ultimate pay-off seem almost to conflict with each another, and the film’s obscure (but stylishly rendered) symbolism recalls, not always favorably, Franz Kafka, David Lynch, and Stanley Kubrick’s last film Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Enemy is nothing if not unconventional, right down to a jarring final scene that surely means or portends something.

Just what isn’t made clear – nor is much else in the film – but it’s certainly different. So too is Enemy.

Enemy is scheduled to open Friday