“Enemy” is heavy in its symbolism and perhaps relies too much upon the visceral nature of the doppelganger conceit, but the latest flick from Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”) provides enough head-scratching turns to keep you decoding its existential atmosphere. Bolstered by a dueling performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, this abstract psychological thriller hits the bar even if its aim is lofty.
Gyllenhaal stars as Adam Bell, a dismal and disheveled history professor who spends his days rehashing the same tired lecture on totalitarianism, hanging in his sparse high-rise apartment and having empty sex with his girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent). He appears to be completely disinterested in his life, which is void of any hobbies or true meaning. While watching a movie, per the recommendation of a colleague, Adam spots his double in a bit-part. Transfixed on discovering this man’s identity their lives evocatively intertwine.
This film isn’t the second coming of Kubrick or Hitchcock, but it’s an intriguing take on the ever popular double trope. “Enemy” is largely tranquil, but manages to retain a vigor that keeps moving with a pace that is introspective and quite eerie.
Villeneuve’s direction has a clear motive. He isn’t as interested in providing the answers to the audience; it is almost like we are ants under a magnifying glass and he is the cruel child as we try to decipher his 90-minute conundrum. Whether you choose to have a sense of clarity in your films, or like to figure it out for yourself, either way it’s undoubtedly stimulating.
The mysterious signifiers that are scattered throughout the film are there for you to fit together, even though the task sometimes become a bit of a slog with scenes that drag on too long just for the sake of brooding. We even get a smidgen of black-comedy peppered throughout with slight bits that reflect the irony of the film’s played out premise.
Even if the symbols are heavy-handed and we are kept in the dark in terms of answers. “Enemy” is an intriguing slow-burn that punctuates a new age of psychological thrillers. There are plenty of theories to workshop here, but as we all know reviews are a spoiler-free zone. Keep in mind you will need to dive in “head first” to keep up with this brain buster.
“Enemy” is currently showing at the Texas Theater and is available on DirecTV VOD.
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