Reviewing the Queue: Enemy (2013)

With the digital libraries of online streaming services expanding more and more, choosing which movie to watch has become difficult. I will be digging through these online queues in hope of bringing you a movie worth your time. This week we’re taking a look at Enemy, a cerebral drama directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners), starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and available on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video.

Before we get started, I feel it appropriate to warn you that this isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill flick; it’s metaphorical, layered, erratic, and sometimes downright confusing. In fact, if you go to Google and type ending, you get this:

That’s right. Lost, a show that has become the go-to example of a disappointing ending (Personally, I loved the ending.), and Gone Girl, a story which has left both its readers cursing their books and its moviegoers cursing Rosamund Pike are both trumped by people searching for Enemy. If that doesn’t sell you, hopefully a little plot will.

Enemy is adapted from José Saramago’s The Double, a novel about a man who mindlessly turns on a random movie only to see himself staring back on screen. The movie adapts the same basic premise and stars Jake Gyllenhaal in not one, but two roles: Adam Bell and Anthony Claire. The film begins with Adam, a midlevel college professor toiling away between repetitive lectures and repetitive lovemaking with his girlfriend, Mary (Mélanie Laurent). Nothing seems to interest Adam. Not teaching. Not sex. Not movies. He’s standoffish around his other colleagues, and when another teacher recommends a film to Adam, he says he doesn’t like them. Succumbing to boredom, Adam rents the film anyway. It’s during this movie that Adam’s life is changed. In a minor scene, Adam sees a bit actor who looks just like him. A quick internet search tells him this actor is a man named Anthony Claire. This flicks a switch in Adam, who seems to have finally found a purpose for which to live.

Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) seems to finally have found a purpose.

The next part of the film centers on Adam researching and attempting to contact Anthony, mostly to no avail. But finally, Anthony picks up the phone, and after some persuading agrees to meet. Up until this point, it was entirely possible that Adam was imagining this – deluding himself into believing something interesting was finally happening in his uninteresting life. But when Adam walks into the hotel room to meet Anthony, it’s clear they’re doppelgängers. From this point on, we start following Anthony, learning that he’s a fledgling actor who is married to a very pregnant Helen (Sarah Gadon). What follows from here is a beautiful crossing of all possible paths. Adam meets Helen. Anthony meets Mary. And no one is quite sure what is going on, us included.

Denis Villenueva knew for a while that he wanted to adapt Saramaga’s novel, and he knew he needed a strong actor to carry the film. Being a fan of Gyllenhaal’s previous work, from Donnie Darko early in his career to Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead later on, Villenueva knew he could deliver the role. But first he had to convince Gyllenhaal to come aboard, so he sent him a script. The next thing Villenueva knew, he was in New York sitting opposite Gyllenaal, both of them quite drunk off red wine, discussing the intricacies of the script. Gyllenhaal has always seemed to gravitate toward the non-traditional when it comes to selecting films, and Enemy was right up his alley. The two hit it off, with Villenueva’s let-the-camera-roll style of filming allowing Gyllenhaal to work and rework many scenes, adding more and more layers and nuances to his two characters. Adam and Anthony start off as two people who, besides their uncanny resemblence, couldn’t be more opposite. But as Enemy progresses, they start to melt together, and by the end, you’re not quite sure who is who.

It’s better that you don’t know too much going in; you’ll thank me when you get to the end. Or you might curse me. But either way, you’ll have a reaction, and when you boil it down, isn’t that what art is all about?

Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element who graduated from Marist College. He spends his time obsessing equally over the Game of Thrones series and the New York Giants, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.

Read all of Joe Brosnan's posts for Criminal Element.

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