Entering slightly darker territory than they did in Prisoners, Jake Gyllenhaal and director Denis Villeneuve prove more adept at the strange and bizarre in Enemy. (A lack of labyrinths and Hugh Jackman shouting also helps.)
Set in a Toronto not nearly as cuddly as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or Take This Waltz made it out to be, Villeneuve’s adaptation of José Saramago’s novel The Double plumbs an interesting scenario with juicy nightmare consequences galore. Anchoring the insanity, Gyllenhaal ably pulls double duty as meek history professor Adam and part-time actor Anthony, getting to show both his Zodiac and Donnie Darko sides.
Questionable editing early on keeps the viewer at a distance from the material, but there’s an increasing appeal of giving over to Villeneuve’s vision and the unpredictable narrative overall. Horror film musical cues occasionally sub for dialogue yet fill the same purpose and pair nicely with shades of Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, and a serious case of arachnophobia for a thoroughly haunting mystery.
After sustaining this feel for the majority of its 90 minutes, a final image either throws Enemy into disarray or, in concert with opening quote “Chaos is order yet undeciphered,” offers an explanation to the madness. Regardless of the solution, the number of filmmakers who make movies that look this good are few, so it’s worth celebrating Villeneuve’s shot composition, camerawork, and the suspense that his atmosphere incites, whether or not it makes sense.
Rated R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language.
The Enemy has come and gone from the Asheville area, but will be on DVD starting June 24. Brave viewers are encouraged to add it to their watch lists.