Movie Review: “Enemy”

Image Jake Gyllenhaal does tour de force double duty in the intimate thriller “Enemy,” a cryptic essay on identity.
He is terrific in both guises, but he is trapped in a frustrating puzzle without a solution. “Enemy” is a fever dream fantasy about a rumpled college professor with perhaps a taste for the kinky who discovers that he has an exact double — a bit player actor has the same voice, is wearing the same beard and has the same scars.
Professor Adam Bell drives his professorial Volvo home to a lovely blond (Melanie Laurent), his girlfriend. Antsy actor Anthony Claire takes his motorcycle home to his blond wife (Sarah Gadon), who doesn’t trust him.
Adam is semi-mindlessly going through his days, repeating the same anecdotes to class after class of bored Canadian college kids (this is set in Toronto). He seems depressed, in between rolls in the sack with Mary, a relationship sketched in tentative, empty strokes. Something’s missing, which might explain his opening scene visit to a twisted voyeur’s club of men watching naked women do things to spiders.
Spiders? That’s no help. Nor is the opening tease — “Chaos is order yet undefined.”
What is helpful is realizing this is based on a novel by the Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese writer Jose Saramago, whose “Blindness” was also cryptic, and something of an essay on human connection and how depriving a city’s residents of a single sense causes social breakdown.
A colleague suggests a movie to Adam, and in it, he spies a bellhop, played by a struggling actor who is a dead ringer for himself. Adam, with more energy than he brings to the rest of his life, methodically tracks down Anthony Saint Claire and nervously angles for a meeting. But not without upsetting Anthony and his very confused, very pregnant wife.
With identity and how we cling to it occupying center stage in this linked-in/identity thieving/NSA-monitored world, it’s no surprise that this lesser novel by Saramago would merit an adaptation by the Canadian director of “Incendies” and last fall’s “Prisoners.” It’s also not surprising that this isn’t the only identity-obsessed doppelganger piece to come out this spring, with Jesse Eisenberg seeing double in the dark comedy “The Double” from the director of “Submarine.”
But while it’s an idea on the tip of the zeitgeist and this film is layered in creepy, calamitous dread, it’s hard to say that Villeneuve and the screenwriter got a handle on anything resembling a point.
It’s David Lynch-lite, a 90 minute puzzle that might be decode-able by those willing to parse its clues obsessively. On a single viewing, though, we have Gyllenhaal’s simple but immaculate separation of the characters, and the time to wonder if it’s all just one man’s nightmare about the life he’s settled into. With spiders.
MPAA Rating: R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon
Credits: Directed Denis Villeneuve, scripted by Javier Gullón, based on the Jose Saramago novel “The Double.” An A-24/eOne release.
Running time: 1:30

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Movie Review: “Enemy”

  1. Plissken Boon says:

    read my analysis of “Enemy” and be ready to double the stars you gave it

    it will go down as one of, if not, the cleverest movie ever – you’ll be sceptical, but you’ll be wrong.

    • Um, no. And no. And not even close.

      • Plissken Boon says:

        Did you actually read it?

        How can you say that – everything, and I mean everything fits – watch the first opening scene and you’ll realize I’ve nailed it – the words of his mother ringing him to talk about what she couldn’t talk about in front of his wife the night before – but she’s really talking to Adam because it’s daylight, and he has transitioned into Adam – he doesn’t understand what’s she saying because of that.

        Think of a Siamese twin, one persona is forced to sleep, while the other is dominant, and vice versa – everything fits – I challenge you – look hard – I’ve nailed it – did you read the explanation of Helen meeting Adam at the university – it is the only explanation, and the correct one – when Adam sees Helen (with the spiders head, as he sees her as a spider) it’s in an underground tunnel, representing his subconscious – surely you can’t be so blinkered – watch the movie again – Anthony talking about the blueberries =- then his mother talking about the blueberries – all these things are payoffs – I implore you to think again – I have pretty much nailed it.

  2. Plissken Boon says:

    The movie is absolutely mind blowing once you understand what’s going on.

  3. Plissken Boon says:

    Watch all the subtle scenes when they cut to Adam sort of “waking up ” these all represent “transitions’ – after he sees Helen with the spiders head, he wakes up in bed in his “fantasy” apartment – the tunnel with Helen represents what he was really seeing, in his subconscious, while he was talking with Helen on the bench – I challenge to find one thing in the movie that I can’t explain for you.

  4. Plissken Boon says:

    I’m not watching the movie now, but, from memory, Adam is sitting in his car in the opening scene – and he’s listening to an answerphone message – this indicates that he is using a mobile phone to collect messages – the same mobile phone that he “shares” with Anthony – it indicates that he is “checking” up on Anthony – his mother is visiting Anthony – he is beginning to feel threatened by Anthony – this is the beginning of his “murder” plan – he is eventually going to eliminate Anthony, because Anthony is becoming too much of a threat, and “start again” – he is going to put his mind back together to eliminate the persona of Anthony – then start afresh by “splitting” it into two again – I have a full understanding of what is going on now – and it is pure genius – go on, throw any question you like at me. I implore you – look at it again – it is an absolute masterpiece.

  5. Plissken Boon says:

    In the beginning of the movie, when Anthony is going to the sex show, he too is in an underground tunnel – representing his subconscious, and that this scene is “fantasy”. When he puts his hands up to his face, and we see the wedding ring, I seem to remember that was when the stripper had her foot over the spider (this is Adam “threatening” Anthony, and he covers his face because it is disturbing him.)

    • Those are some interesting points, plainly it was more memorable for you than it was for me. Or most critics. Glancing at my review, I can recall considering that as an option, but not figuring it was worth running with.
      For future ref., state your case, be concise, and don’t post a link. Nobody goes to links in the comments. Those make you look obsessed. I may revisit that one at some point, because I respect Jake G. enough to know that he saw something there — hopefully more than the ego trip of playing two parts.

  6. Plissken Boon says:

    I’m even certain I’ve nailed the ending – Adam risks going back into the spiders den (Helen) so that he can put his mind back together (eliminate Anthony and “reboot”) – she starts to get him into her clutches – then he manages to “split” his mind again, and escapes.

  7. Plissken Boon says:

    Helen, is definitely the “Enemy”

  8. Plissken Boon says:

    Yes – the problem is that is so deep for a first watching – I haven’t seen anyone come close what I’ve come up with – and believe me it fits – it’s a shame because it is a masterpiece – hopefully you will read my analysis, and have a look at it again sometime – I’m sure you will marvel at how clever it really is.

  9. Plissken Boon says:

    Roger – I wasn’t trying to be rude to you or anything – I’m actually a really nice guy – I was just trying to get it out there, that I’ve deciphered the movie, so that others can enjoy it’s cleverness as well.
    Rather than knocking me, you should actually be confirming it yourself, and congratulating me for working it out – it appears, at the moment, that out of 7 billion odd people, less maybe the screenwriter and production crew, that I’m the only person to figure it out.
    My name is a pseudonym so it’s not like I am seeking kudos for deciphering it or anything.
    The screenwriter, Director, and actors, deserve credit for creating an absolute masterpiece

  10. Plissken Boon says:

    You could actually be helping me, to get it out there that the movie can be deciphered, it’s not one of those movies that can’t be deciphered because the writer/director are just trying to be too clever – this one is decipherable. Both the writer, and the Director have done a fantastic job.

    • Well, I’m not lumping you with the nut in New Jersey who emails me every month reminding me that A) she’s Underdog and B) I didn’t get it right reviewing her movie. But notice your number of posts here and take a few breaths. Rent “Room 237.” Obsessing about anything this much both deepens appreciation for it, and sends you down the rabbit hole. Good luck!

  11. Plissken Boon says:

    my name is wayne, and I live in NZ, and I love good movies.

    • Have you seen “Housebound”? Just did. Love New Zealand films. And yes, my girlfriend and I are staying with you when we come to visit. Soon.

      • Plissken Boon says:

        I’ll see what I can do… I might even let you read my “Usual Suspects” sequel, “Overlord”

        Haven’t seen “Housebound”, but I did watch “The Dark Horse” a while back.

      • And hit Roger Donaldson’s Sleeping Dogs winery there on South Island. The Good Stuff. Hard to find up here, far from the Land of Hobbits, but he hooked me up once.

  12. Andrew says:

    Have you watched the 25 minute explanation on YouTube, Roger Moore? I watched after being utterly confused like everybody else and I really liked what the director was trying to show with Gyllenhaal’s character. Would you change your score after understanding the movie as a whole?

    • There’s a reason director’s commentaries aren’t included in the showing of a movie in the theater. The story has to stand on its own. That’s why Stanley Kubrick, for good or ill, never did interviews or “explained” his movies. “Enemy” failed because whatever his intentions, they didn’t quite work. Maybe it’ll linger as a cult film, “underrated” for its day. Then you can sign on. To the cult. Me? Moved on.

      • Andrew says:

        Another film that is confusing that came out of late is “Under The Skin”. The director doesn’t answer people’s questions and leaves us to interpret what was going on (due to no exposition or conclusion). Why did you seem like “Under The Skin” more than “Enemy”? Just a question.

      • Closing off comments on this. Sorry, you’ve crossed into crackpot nuisance over a forgettable and forgotten movie. Go sell OCD someplace else.

Comments are closed.