This is one that was definitely on the list of films I should have seen before, but never got around to it. I have now and am very glad because this is fairly special. Telling the story of boring old history teacher Adam who on the innocent suggestion of a co-worker decides to watch a film, a simple decision that will have an immense affect on his life. While watching it, Adam discovers that one of the background actors looks exactly like him, except not in a coy “oh that’s interesting” sort of way, but a “that can’t be possible” way. Adam sets out to find his double and as people in films always do, gets a lot more than he bargained for.
Of course after this year’s Sicario and the year before Prisoners was released, people should be perfectly familiar with the name Denis Villeneuve, Enemy is in fact his first English language film and how grateful we should be that he decided to make that move. This one is branded as an erotic thriller but that descriptor can alienate some audiences, and realistically this film has no more sex or nudity than you might get in any film these days; so for now let’s just call it a mystery and stick to that. Now, Jake Gyllenhaal we know can give great performances, it’s been seen time and time again from Donnie Darko to Southpaw; this is no exception. To see him play two starkly contrasted characters in the same time frame is a quick way to see his strength as an actor, not to mention the sheer amount of emotion these characters go through in 90 minutes of how to deal with finding your doppelganger. It may be one actor but he does a great job of making you simultaneously hate and pity him, and it’s so much more than simply “wow he looks like me”, “this is weird”. The strange thing is, his talents are acknowledged but when people name the big actors, they usually go for (within a…relatively similar age) DiCaprio, McConnaughey, Pitt, Bale, Fassbender, Hardy, their performances are revered and screamed about and yet Gyllenhaal doesn’t seem to have that effect, and after watching Enemy, Nightcrawler, Prisoners and End of Watch to name but a few, I sincerely question why this isn’t the case.
Normally I might be against using someone like Mélanie Laurent and making her part fairly insignificant, but in this case the focus is exactly where it needs to be and I can’t fault that so apologies, but I’m going to skim over her involvement though I look forward to seeing her in By The Sea. As I’ve already said I basically have put off watching this film for 2 years almost, and it’s not often that I say it, but I was wrong to; this is an edge of the seat, no idea what’s going to happen at any moment thrill of a film. It’s so muted and quiet for huge chunks, using not overpowering score and lots of beige and off-white colours before throwing things at you out of the blue. I cannot deny that this is a small, even potentially slightly strange film, and my genuine surprise at how much I enjoyed watching it is the exact feeling that decent films should always evoke.
This film will not be for the less patient among us, but it is one that has gone much too under the radar and there should be more people talking about it.