Friday, March 14, 2014

Movie with Abe: Enemy

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Released March 14, 2014

The idea of two people existing with the exact same face is a film that is ripe for cinematic interpretation, and has been the subject of many movies over the years. In fact, a 2014 Sundance Film Festival entry, “The Double,” starring Jesse Eisenberg, will be released later this year. “Enemy,” the new film from director Denis Villeneuve, is itself based on a novel called “The Double,” but its source material and tone are entirely different. This is a dark, foreboding, and extremely intriguing look at how one man’s discovery of his double leads to the unraveling of his life.

Plot aside, “Enemy” represents an exciting reteaming of Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal, who gave a standout performance that found him wandering into new territory in last year’s “Prisoners.” Villeneuve previously made the unsettling Canadian Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee “Incendies,” and is back with another troubling topic for his latest film. Gyllenhaal portrays Adam, a buttoned-up professor who, exempting his casual girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent), keeps mostly to himself. While watching a recommended film on his computer late one night, Adam spots someone with his face, and finding out who this person is becomes an obsession.

The film’s title is an interesting one since it isn’t clear at all from the start that Adam’s double is someone he should fear. Yet “Enemy” starts with a knowing, ominous tone, previewing the fact that there is something off about the person who shares his face and voice. What the film never tries to answer is how this is possible, and instead focuses its efforts on constructing Adam and his lookalike, Anthony. The film is very well paced and edited, and suspense builds the entire time. The fact that no questions are answered is inconsequential, since this film derives its strengths from addressing what is simply posited as the reality of the moment.

Gyllenhaal does a tremendous job of creating one character who isn’t quite tethered to society and then starting from scratch to build an entirely different person who possesses some of the same mannerisms but otherwise bears little emotional or social resemblance. Both performances are equally compelling, and it’s great to see the talented actor branching out to challenging roles such as this. Laurent and Sarah Gadon, as Helen, a woman connected to Anthony, offer crucial support to enhance a small universe that at times feels like it’s closing on our protagonist. The film’s final scene presents a questionable resolution that leaves a bizarre final taste, but everything up until that point remains gripping and thought-provoking.


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