"Prisoners" by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve was one of the best films of 2013. Villeneuve has reunited with Jake Gyllenhaal to give us "Enemy," a thrilling mystery that is a completely different beast from the compelling piece of drama Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal gave us last year.
Adam Bell (Gyllenhaal) is a history teacher. He teaches, he comes home, he makes love to his girlfriend Mary (Melanie Laurent) and then he goes to bed. It all starts over again the next day in this never ending cycle. After a spontaneous conversation at work, Adam decides to rent a movie that is recommended to him by a co-worker. He watches it after grading some papers and then goes to bed. After dreaming certain sequences from the film as if he were there, Adam revisits it only to discover that an extra in the film looks just like him.
Adam becomes obsessed with his double as he tracks down all the movies he's done. His trail eventually leads him to the actor Anthony St. Claire (also played by Gyllenhaal) and his pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon). A meeting is set up and after some tiptoeing from both sides eventually takes place, but the situation is too awkward and Adam finds himself fleeing. By this point both Adam and Anthony have come too far as a continuous game of cat and mouse ensues, but the tables have turned and the hunted becomes the prey.
This strange film begins with the quote "chaos is order but undeciphered" before jumping to a group of men including Gyllenhaal huddled around a naked woman as she masturbates. A silver platter is then brought in with a tarantula inside where a naked woman in high heels threatens to step on it. The atmosphere of the film is covered in this amber glow as a dark, filtered yellow lighting enhances nearly every scene of the first half of the film.
There is some sort of message in "Enemy" somewhere. Something about a never ending pattern and the inevitable dread of routine, everyday life taking its toll but everything after that seems to get purposely convoluted. The film is so ridiculously open-ended that you can't help but have it on your mind days after you've finished watching it. Dreams in the film are also rather wondrous as they seem to get dirtier and grungier as we travel further down the rabbit hole. Other than Adam dreaming of the movie he watched, there's the upside down woman with the strange face and the giant spider crawling on an unsuspecting city.
You're left with more questions than answers with Villeneuve's twisted yet artsty little film. This paragraph is poised to spoil some of the film, so feel free to jump ahead. Are Adam and Anthony the same person? They're never actually shown together on-screen in front of other people and both men are with women who look similar. Maybe the entire experience is a man fed up with his ordinary life that creates an alter ego, kills it, and then jumps into a new pair of shoes to attempt having a refreshing view on life. Half of the film could have been a dream with a delusional man creating a false sense of reality to cope with his depressing and repetitive life.
"Enemy" is deliberately enigmatic as it coils itself around your brain and does not let go. In a way, it's like 2014's version of "Only God Forgives" with a slight twist of "The Machinist." "Enemy" may infuriate you with its lack of answers and clarity, but it makes up for it with its ability to constantly intrigue. Whether you love or hate ambiguous cinema, "Enemy" will have you talking and the mindboggling film will mull around in your noggin for days to come.