Published Mar 13, 2014With Oscar season behind us, hopefully there will be a chance for a few of the overlooked films to find new audiences. As always happens, some excellent films weren't nominated, while others, like Inside Llewyn Davis and Prisoners, got token nominations like Best Cinematography. Prisoners was practically snubbed before it was even released, represented by a bland poster that displayed the heads of Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, and was almost indistinguishable from other gloomy movie posters (ex. Gyllenhaal's Brothers or We Own The Night). The marketing, however, betrayed the tightly-wound suspense that director Denis Villeneuve crafted from a smart black list script. Now Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal have reteamed for another suspenseful thriller, albeit a more experimental collaboration.
Gyllenhaal plays Adam Bell, a frumpy history professor who is a slave to his daily routine. After a colleague recommends a movie, Bell rents it, only to discover one of the film's extras looks exactly like him. He pushes himself past his anxiety on a mission to find the actor, Anthony St. Claire (also played by Gyllenhaal). When they inevitably meet, Bell and St. Claire alternate between wanting to know the other and avoiding their twin altogether, which quickly evolves into a psychological showdown between Bell, considerate but afraid, and St. Claire, arrogant and selfish.
The movie's appeal is less in its story than its telling. The pulsing drive of Prisoners is traded for the sort of pensive unraveling of a dark Charlie Kaufman film, complete with a jaunty score punctuating its pace. The film feels more substantial than its relatively brisk 90 minutes would suggest, filling its intentional silences with fetishistic views of Toronto, with the city playing itself. In fact, Villeneuve seems intent on paying homage to the Canadian tradition of filmmaking, displaying a fascination with Toronto architecture that recalls David Cronenberg's very early films and the casting of frequent Guy Maddin collaborator Isabella Rossellini.
Despite some clever twists, the film ends abruptly, not bothering to tie up any loose ends or say anything definitive about the psychologies of Gyllenhaal's characters. More than anything, Enemy simply shows the versatility of its director just as much as its star.