Director Denis Villeneuve has made, in Enemy, a third consecutive powerful and unsettling film. Incendies was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 2011, and Prisoners (Hugh Jackman) was vastly underrated in 2013. To my mind, Enemy outdoes them both, in one of this year’s best films yet.
Based on José Saramago‘s book, Enemy is nominally about a man (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers his doppelgänger (also Gyllenhaal). But, like the greatest directors, Villeneuve turns an old story into something searing and unforgettable, not to mention Bunuelian surreal.
Mirrors, palindromes, personality reversals, and uncertain points of view all come into play, sometimes playfully, and sometimes queasily, in what reminded me at times of that other Canadian master, David Cronenberg. The exotic, and perhaps erotic (depending on your proclivities), opening scene sets the stage for everything that follows, by not allowing us to simply watch a story unfold, but by forcing us to follow with furrowed brow.
Adam (Gyllenhaal) and his girlfriend, played by Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds [“Shoshanna!”]), seem to be living comfortable, academic lives in Toronto, until Adam notices, in a rented DVD, an actor in a small part who looks like him. He makes contact, opening the proverbial can of worms, and along the way has an unsettling encounter with his double’s pregnant wife, played by the exquisitely delicate Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis [Cronenberg-directed]). Both Gadon and Laurent are cool, beautiful blondes, both sirens and perhaps duplicitous, which I take as Hitchcockian homage, never a bad thing.
A final word: if you’ve read my reviews in the past, you know I love it when directors don’t tie things up with a bow at the end. Enemy‘s ending is what sealed greatness for me, although it might be seen as a somewhat living bow. – [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 6/24/14