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This is not a normal movie. It doesn't follow a straight line, it's full of deliberately vague metaphors and eerie imagery, you're never quite sure where it's going (even when the road looks familiar), and the last five minutes are as strange and bewildering as the first.
I seem to enjoy movies like this, by and large. I appreciate that there are filmmakers and actors who put effort into making a vivid and unique film experience.
That's what I think Enemy is, without saying it's good or bad. It is very vivid and unique, as well as enthralling and maddening. Mostly, it feels like an Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles movie, then it will unexpectedly veer into Eraserhead territory.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a teacher who watches a movie one night and sees an actor in the movie who looks like him. Exactly like him. Out of a seemingly irrational sense of paranoia and curiosity, the teacher becomes obsessed with meeting his apparent doppleganger. I'd say this is where things get weird, but things are weird before we even find out who either Gyllenhaal is.
This is a movie that shows you things, but only provides a sliver of information for you to process the things you see. This led many viewers, myself included, to believe the movie is about something that seems fairly straightforward instead of what it's really about, which is apparently hinted throughout the movie's various clues, images and double meanings. While I admire movies that are able to trick me like a magician, I can see how this film's conclusion may piss off a lot of people.
Its cons: Not sure it succeeded in establishing whatever themes or allegories it was aiming for. Spider/sexual imagery, a little on the nose. The story seems to focus on one thing that it's not really about, while what it's really about is made to be obscure. Slow.
Its pros: Two excellent Jake Gyllenhaal performances in one movie. Excellent cinematography, direction, and editing. Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon in various states of undress. A compelling, ominous mystery. I loved the ending; you gotta have balls to end this movie like that.
I may have enjoyed Enemy on an aesthetic level, but it's not a film I'd recommend to the average filmgoer. It's a movie with the mood and atmosphere of a nightmare. Most people would prefer not to linger in nightmares.
Enemy is a frustrating film to review. Its nature as a puzzlebox mystery movie means that there is only so much I can talk about the story without spoiling it. The movie depends on presenting the audience with a series of strange imagery and to invite them to figure out what it all means. The movie is more fun the less you know about it going in, so you shouldn't be reading this.
I can talk about a few things. The cinematography is excellent. Toronto is shown in unhealthy looking greys and yellows, giving the city an oppressive malaise. The music is similarly effective at giving an off kilter feeling that there is something deeply wrong, but that whatever it is isn't so apparent either.
It all ties into some vaguely alluded theme of being trapped in a totalitarian state, yet somehow ignorant of it. I would have loved that theme to be explored more, but instead the plot focuses on a doppelganger story in which a neurotic lecturer discovers and tracks down someone who looks exactly the same. The problem is that the mystery of Toronto's ruling class and the mystery of the body double are only tentatively related, and get in each other's way. As clues appear on the screen, it is unclear whether they are a clue to solve the former or latter mystery. By the movie's final scene, the penny doesn't really drop. Instead, my audience laughed at what was shown on screen. It was an incongruous little send off, and people gave a "what the fuck?" kind of laugh when the credits popped up immediately after.
They may also have been laughing because they lost patience with the movie. I certainly did. Normally I enjoy slow moving, opaquely presented movies like Under The Skin or No Country for Old Men, but in this case the subject is not only left unexplained but it is deliberately obfuscated by the slow burning twin mystery. They may have also lost patience with the protagonist, who takes an age to do anything. It takes him almost the entire movie to realize that it is possible to abuse the fact that he has an exact look-alike, which is something the audience figured out within the time it took to watch the film's trailer.
Over all, Enemy is a pretty looking and pretty annoying film. If you are of a patient disposition, rent it.
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