Thursday, 31 July 2014

NZIFF Film Review: "Enemy" (2013).




For my ninth entry for the NZIFF, I have watched the strikingly eerie and mind-twisting movie Enemy. “The last thing you need is meeting strange men in hotel rooms. You already have enough trouble sticking with one woman, don't you?” This sums up the whole premise of this Canadian psychological thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve; loosely adapted by Javier Gullón from José Saramago's 2002 novel The Double. The story follws a man who seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.

Gyllenhaal meets Gyllenhaal in this eerie and hypnotically baffling doppelganger tale from the director of Incendies (2010) and Prisoners (2013). Adam (Gyllenhaal) is a Toronto history professor, a bit frayed around the edges and apt to drift in and out of focus, whether with his students and/or his girlfriend (Laurent). Much like Jesse Eisenberg's character in The Double. One night, Adam dreams that he saw himself in a movie he watched earlier that evening. He takes a closer look, and sure enough, there he is in a tiny part, identified as Daniel, his real name being Anthony. We follow Adam as he stalks and eventually confronts the actor. It turns out, he is not just a look-alike but an exact replicant as well, one who's differently abled. Sleek, vital and with a heavily pregnant wife (Gadon), Anthony might be Adam's opposite. Mutual by comparison, in which the two women become unwitting adjudicators, soon thickens into mutual intolerance and dread. The mind games that ensue are played out in an eerily stylized near-future city where the very air seems pumped in from an alien planet.

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as two characters, Mélanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini and Sarah Gadon. The performances in this film were all superbly portrayed, especially the two roles of Gyllenhaal are just as brilliant as they feel so individual. He was captivating as Adam and Anthony. He captures the confusion of a timid man thrown into a world of danger, paranoia and temptation with frightening veracity. Gyllenhaal may have been the highlight, but I felt as though the women in this film, as unique and as brilliantly played as they are, they were underused and were merely the unwilling and tortured adjudicators of this game between Adam and Anthony.

Bracingly intense, enticing, and wildly melodramatic, Enemy glides on Denis Villeneuve’s smart direction—and a strong performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. The film is already set to be one of the year's most love-it-or-hate-it movies. It’s wonderfully creepy, But it's not entirely satisfying; but it's infused with the director's usual creative brio, and it has a great dark gleaming look. It's a mesmerising psychological ride that builds to a gloriously theatrical tragic finale as both men’s worlds collide and crash. It is somewhat a lovely companion-piece to The Double (2014), in which both films explore two (or should I say four) characters in a mind-bending world in the search for identity and logical explanations. But unlike The Double, I would exactly classify this film as a work of art.

Simon says Enemy receives:

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