Main cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Adam Bell and Anthony Claire), Mélanie Laurent (Mary), Sarah Gadon (Helen Claire), and Isabella Rossellini (Mother)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Enemy is one of those arty-farty thrillers where everything happens in a pace twice as slow as it normally would in real life. It opens with this slow crawl of a scene in a gentleman’s club where smartly dressed men watch eagerly as a woman slowly walks out onto the stage holding a covered tray. She slowly lifts the cover,,, it’s a tarantula. What is she going to do with it? Is she… wait for it, wait for it, this is a quality movie, so everything takes time to happen…. wait… wait for it, it’s probably going to be good… oh wait, she crushes it under her heel. That’s it. People with crush fetish may love this scene, although the movie shies away from their idea of the perfect money shot, but everyone else is more likely to give director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Javier Gullón the side eye.
This scene is also representative of the entire movie: folks with a crush on Jake Gyllenhaal and movies in which the level of artistry is measured by how labored the pacing is will love it, while everyone else will go meh and consign this to another dud by the usual suspects.
By the way, Jake Gyllenhall sports a full beard for his dual role here, which is how you know he means serious artistic business.
He plays Adam Bell, a quiet history professor who has a hot girlfriend, Mary, despite her not seemingly excited by his amorous attentions. Life goes on… until he sees a man who looks exactly like himself in a movie he’d rented for the evening. The man is playing a bit role, but nonetheless, Adam is intrigued enough to track the man down and learn that the man is Anthony Claire, and manages to stalk him well enough to discover the man’s phone number. Anthony is married to Helen, and she too tracks Adam down after receiving a call for him, only to be stunned by how much that man resembles her husband. She and Adam have a chat, although he has no idea whom she is.
Eventually Adam meets Anthony, and ooh, they are indeed alike, right down to having the same scar in the same place. But how? Perhaps it doesn’t matter, as Adam decides that the whole thing is too creepy – creepier than his stalking, I suppose – but it’s too late. Anthony soon decides that he’d love to take Mary on a ride on his bike, if you know what I mean, and blackmails Adam into letting him do just that. In retaliation, Adam decides to go sleep with Helen, and I’m supposed to think that this isn’t so bad because Helen and Adam supposedly have struck up some bond when they met earlier. And then… oops.
There, I’ve described nearly the entire movie, because that’s how slow this thing is. To be fair, the story it is based on, The Double by José Saramago, is also like this, and the movie is a pretty faithful adaptation to the point that people who have read that book will likely be bored by this slow-paced flick. The movie makes some changes here and there, but these changes have little impact on the overall similarity to Mr Saramago’s story – if anything, this movie makes the whole thing more open to all kinds of interpretation. For example, is this whole thing some kind of cracked fantasy playing out in the head of a married man who is having an affair? Therefore, while the source material is a thriller, this one leans more towards navel-gazing arty-farty effort by people who care more about winning awards at film festivals than making back money.
As for the “scary ending”… oh please, it’d be scary to men who are afraid of women, I suppose, or to people who have extreme fear of spiders.
Well, good for Jake Gyllenhaal for getting paid despite putting on another sad-faced Eeyore-wants-sex performance, good for those who win some film festival awards for their roles, but the whole thing is akin to some self-love show by people who want to be praised, rather than to entertain the audience. Sure, the lighting is nice, the cinematography is well done, but come on, this movie isn’t for the general public, it’s also for movie critics to feel smart for praising this thing. If you’re not in the cool kids club, I’d suggest watching something else.