Enemy: Jake Gyllenhaal Finds Himself in a Weird and Prickly Thriller
More than anything else, I admire Enemy for its palette. It's entirely awash in a smog-beige filter. Toronto has never looked as grimy as it does here—all those modern, sleek glass towers resemble discarded cigarette butts, and the air looks like it reeks of urine. As Adam Bell, a disheveled history professor with the world's most unremarkable life, Jake Gyllenhaal wears nothing but rumpled brown suits. He's a pair of huge eyes peeking out from a disheveled beard, and you get the sense that if he was a little more willful, he'd be the world's biggest creep. Instead, he has boring sex with his girlfriend and hides away in his depressing little apartment.
One night, Bell rents a crappy movie and sees someone who looks just like him playing a bit part. He decides to track down his double, and then everything gets really weird. Director Denis Villeneuve previously teamed with Gyllenhaal in last year's Prisoners, but Enemy feels entirely different. It owes small debts to early David Cronenberg and David Lynch. Its pace is intentionally slow; generous viewers would call it "deliberate," while those less kind would probably opt for "pretentious." Conversations are plodding and circuitous. And very occasionally, a horrific image will burst into a dream sequence to bring the simmering discomfort to a boil. (Arachnophobes should probably keep away.)
Your results may vary, but I loved Enemy. I was surprised, challenged, and entertained by it. It's a movie that's not afraid to embrace a hideous color palette that reveals the inner lives of the characters, or an awkward silence that says more than any dialogue ever could. There are plenty of loose ends and unanswered questions—this is more of an exercise in tone than plot—but it's a movie that's also engaged enough with the joy of filmmaking to embrace a solid sight gag here and there. Enemy isn't for everybody, but some filmgoers will love this movie hard enough to make up for all the haters.