MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Jake Gyllenhaal as ADAM / ANTHONY
Mélanie Laurent as MARY
Sarah Gadon as HELEN
Isabella Rossellini as MOTHER
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
BY KEVIN CARR
If you’re looking for really solid speculative fiction and smart genre pictures in 2014, you need to start seeking out the slate of films from A24. Sure, they gave us the decadent and silly “Spring Breakers” last year along with the slow-burn satire “The Bling Ring,” but now they have been rolling out an extremely impressive list of genre films that supercede the mainstream.
“Enemy” was the first deliver in the one-two punch with “Under the Skin” this spring, and we are getting that one-two punch again with both of these films hitting DVD and Blu-ray within a month or so of each other.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, who gave us last year’s failed award contender “Prisoners,” “Enemy” is a more intimate story that never quite makes sense for very deliberate reasons. The film tells the story of a history teacher named Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers that he has a doppelganger running around. The double is named Anthony and is a local actor trying to rise out of bit parts and walk-ons. When Adam tries to connect with Anthony, their paths become entangled. Brushing off the larger mystery of why they are exact doubles, down to an identical scar on their chests, the two begin to invade each others’ lives and push the boundaries of their own identities.
And spiders. There’s something about spiders in this movie.
“Enemy” is slowly and deliberately directed, to the point that it would seem mundane if there weren’t fantastically bizarre elements thrown in periodically. The story is written in such a way that it is unclear who is whom and what is actually happening. I’ve never been wild about deliberately obtuse films, but if they at least have a clear puzzle to them and just don’t play as a gimmick, I’m happy with them. There’s nothing gimmicky about what Villeneuve is doing here. He has a mission and a reason… he just chooses not to share it with anyone.
“Enemy” is a film worthy of studying because it’s an enigma, and there’s an interpretation for everyone. Watching it a second time, I was inspired to look deeper into the story and figure out what I though was happening. Some films wane on their repeat viewing, but “Enemy” doesn’t. Like Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” this is a film that we can all examine and try to decode for ourselves.
Beyond the story and mystery of the meaning itself, this film is exquisitely put together. The look of the film is given a particular look that falls in line with the muted life of our main character, but it also allows the images and some colors to pop.
From a technical acting standpoint, Gyllenhaal does a superb job bringing life to both roles of Adam and Anthony. He plays each one quite different so there’s actually very little doubt who it is we are seeing on screen. Sadly, Gyllenhaal’s performance will go largely unnoticed come award season, and that’s a real shame since he does such a great job here.
When I first received word about the home video release of “Enemy,” there was a question whether it would even be dropped on Blu-ray. Like it’s tonal partner “Under the Skin,” I was thrilled to see it get a high definition release. “Enemy” has such a strong look that it’s worth checking out in the slickest format available.
The Blu-ray comes with a single Making-Of featurette, which offers some good insight and potential explanations for the film, though I would have appreciated a little more meat in the menu; particularly I wish Villeneuve would have done a commentary. However, it’s still a great film to pick up for home viewing.