[BD Review] 'Enemy' Is a Terrifying Psychological Thriller With Double the Gyllenhaal! - Bloody Disgusting!

[BD Review] ‘Enemy’ Is a Terrifying Psychological Thriller With Double the Gyllenhaal!

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Deni Villeneuve’s thriller Prisoners was one of my favorite movies of last year. Since then I’ve been eagerly awaiting his new film Enemy, which was filmed before Prisoners, so it’s technically not new. Either way, the auteur potential exhibited in Prisoners is on full display here. Enemy is a wholly independent doppelganger mind-fuck that’s leaving many folks (including me) scratching their heads. It’s also terrifying the hell out of audiences with its shocking ending, which has got to be one of the most unpredictable climaxes in years.

Beneath a thick cloud of Toronto gloom, history professor Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) lectures his students about the repeating patterns of totalitarianism that threaten society. The Roman Empire, he explains, used “bread and circuses” to control their citizens. Nowadays, governments limit education and censor media to keep society clueless about what’s really going on. These ideas, I believe, are ultimately what the movie is all about. Not on any conspiracy level though – on a very literal one. If, that is, you can piece together the meaning behind all of the questions, answers, symbols, and spiders Villeneuve presents in the film.

Adam would’ve been a drag in Roman times. His chosen forms of entertainment don’t reach beyond grading papers and screwing his girlfriend. Then one night he rents a “cheerful” movie recommended by a coworker, only to see himself playing a bellboy. Or, someone who looks exactly like him – a bit actor named Anthony. Adam becomes obsessed with his doppelganger (who wouldn’t?) and as confrontations between the two men escalate, some unnerving horrors about themselves and society are uncovered. In nature, two of the same thing cannot exist at the same time. This apparently goes for Gyllenhaals as well.

Enemy is based on the Nobel Prize-winning book The Double by José Saramago. Just from a cursory glance at the book’s synopsis it’s obvious Villeneuve and screenwriter Javier Gullón used the plot to create their own Kafkaesque allegory about fascism. That’s how I interpreted it at least, though the second time around I may draw something else from the puzzle pieces Villeneuve peppers throughout.

The film’s prologue is a big clue, I think. Without spoiling anything, it contains ideas that connect to other key themes in the film: control through entertainment, how men treat women, and, most prevalently, spiders. All of these concepts subtly repeat throughout until the film’s horrifying ending, which reinforces Villeneuve’s heady ideas in the most shit-your-pants way possible.

Enemy clearly weighs on the shoulders of Gyllenhaal, who does a praiseworthy job carrying the film in his dual roles. Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon play his love interests with an icy cool demeanor and the always great Isabella Rossellini has a brief but strong appearance as his mom. Her scene is a short one, but has a couple of plot shockers in it, so pay attention.

With Enemy and Prisoners, Vulleneuve proves he’s capable of creating incredible films on an independent and big studio level. I’ve read a few reactions to Enemy that called it “pretentious,” which I think is complete bullshit. It would be pretentious if the film was vague and surreal with no ideas to back it up, but the clues are all there. Villeneuve wants people to figure it out and he respects the audience enough to allow them to do it themselves, rather than get all pedantic on our asses. To dismiss Enemy as an arthouse wank-off is just plain lazy…and that’s exactly how our fascist rulers want us to be, ya dummy!

Official Score

  • debraekuhns

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  • RubenVeritas

    They should have made a movie out of the series Ringer to end that show properly! This reminded me of having double Sarah Michelle Gellar.

  • railridden

    I thought it was vague and surreal with few ideas to back it up. Not an enjoyable movie to watch.

    I also don’t think the movie is meant to be an “allegory about fascism.” That’s something you’re inventing because the movie so vague and meaningless. I think the intent was to create an allegory about infidelity.

  • proudclod

    The word “terrifying” is very misleading. Nothing about this movie was terrifying.

    I wanted to like this movie, I really did, but it was utter garbage. How you can compare this to Prisoners is beyond me.

  • StevenX

    I’ve just watched it, and disagree completely with this review. Like proudcloud, I was going into this expecting to – and wanting to – like it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was utter garbage, but I felt that it thought it was way cleverer than it really was. Having said that, as it’s such a simple story, maybe it wasn’t supposed to be particularly confusing either, and is just played out in a very non-literal and non-linear way. Proudcloud is also right that there’s nothing terrifying about this. I’m not sure how the reviewer came up with some of the absolute nonsense in the review, particularly the key themes; spiders as a key theme, really? The spiders are quite clearly symbolic, and it’s pretty clear what they symbolise. Clue: nothing about fascism. I’ll avoid spoilers here, but suffice to say it’s actually a pretty straightforward movie which wasn’t that hard to understand and suffers a bit from being too long (at just 90 minutes). It kept me entertained, and had some interesting ideas, but was a bit messy. Pretty average all in all.

  • Plissken Boon

    Enemy is a mind blower when you fully understand what’s really going on – this answers every question – you won’t be able to find a cleverer movie in history

    http://youtu.be/Tp2CNFy-RZU