The only real enemy here, was my expectations
I’m not gonna lie. I had such high expectations for this mind melting thriller. The poster was creepy in a vintage/minimalist way. The trailer for the movie was mysterious, and I was a fan of Jake Gyllenhaals performance in Nightcrawler, a thriller he starred in a mere year AFTER he starred in Enemy.
Enemy was NOT what I was expecting. Both, in a good and bad way.
Lets get the plot summary out of the way. The Story is about a mild-mannered college professor Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers a look-alike actor and delves into the other man’s private affairs. The film goes on to explore subtle themes of the repressed subconscious, anxiety, and compulsion.
I’m gonna start off with what I loved about the film before I get into the many things that left me shaking my head unsatisfied.
For starters, Jake Gyllenhaal is gripping in this. He plays a dual role in this as both main characters, and the subtleties he displays to differentiate between them are just great. The history teacher, Adam Bell, is a very quiet and meek man. His life consists of teaching, coming home, eating, and sleeping with his girlfriend, who treat each other more like one night stands than actual lovers. His life mirrors the historical patterns he talks about during his lectures. He is a shy, boring man, who only shows some kind of ambition when he finds out he has a twin. From then, he becomes a man on mission to find out whats going on, albeit going about it in the most roundabout and paranoid way possible.
On the flip side, his twin Anthony Claire is much more confident and outgoing. More sure of himself and headstrong. He has a wife, and an apartment that’s well furnished and glistening. The complete opposite of Adam in almost every way. Gyllenhaal handles this tightrope act with ease, without resorting to overacting or turning these characters into horror movie stereotypes. You truly do come to see these as different characters, even if the movie plays to conclusion that they might not be.
The film has hazy nightmarish atmosphere to it. Almost everything looks dull, brownish and muddy. The world feels cold and uncertain, maybe even fake. There are numerous dream scenarios in the movie that revolve around sexual lust and spiders; spiders that seem to grow and seep into our main characters reality, like ignoring a problem that only becomes larger the more you ignore it. This motif of spiders, lust, and anxiety, eventually come to a head in the films final scene, that comes so out of left-field, that it will either terrify you or leave you scratching your head.
This is where we get into my problems with movie. There are so many ideas, themes, and suggestions, but none of them result in anything of actual substance. For anyone who manages to sit through this slow burn thriller,they will likely leave with a completely different interpretation of whats going on than the next person. Nothing about the movie is certain and it does not attempt to hold your hand.
Normally, I don’t mind that in a movie. Ive seen other psychological thrillers that leave a lot whats going on to the audiences imagination. Where the director refuses to compromise just to have mainstream movie-goers go home happy. Not to sound like a pretentious ass-hat, but this is very much a thinking persons movie. Designed for discussion and analysis. Its just that analyzing the movie is more enjoyable than actually watching it. Too many ideas and too much build up get in the way of actually enjoying the movie. I was CONSTANTLY waiting for something to happen, waiting for all this tension to be released in a surprising sendoff or twist. What I got was much more quieter and subdued. A sly whisper instead of a bang. Even though the film is technically sound in its own right, better than most of the dime-a-dozen crap that’s pushed in theaters, Id be lying if I said my viewing was mostly enjoyable. The first hour was great but as time went, the more unease and impatience grew. “Get to the point, GIVE ME SOMETHING”, was one of the thoughts that appeared in my head near the end.
I cant really give the film points for originality either. Although it changes many details from the novel its based on , the concept of having a doppelganger isn’t territory at all, and the film uses the special effect of twin magic sparsely. The scenes that do showcase both twins interacting are great, but they do leave you wanting more.
It could be said that my own expectations betrayed me. I had this movie in my Netflix queue for about a year, as if i was waiting for the perfect time to watch this gem that I had saved for myself and put on a pedestal. That turned out to be a stupid idea. I had built up this movie so much own mind, that what I got wasn’t at all what I expected, and sadly that ended up hurting my experience. The movie might be more enjoyable on re-watch, although I cant say the urge is strong.
In the end, I went on to prove one of the movies biggest arguments right.
You are your own worst enemy.
I give Enemy a light 7 out of 10.
Enemy was directed by Denis Villeneuve
Based on the 2002 novel “The Double“
Rated R for : Strong language, Sexual themes and Nudity