I rarely give any weight to movie critics but I do poke IMDB for movie goer ratings. I was surprised to see such across-board low ratings for this film even though some of my more particular friends compared it to ‘a thinking man’s Fight Club’, whatever that means. It was actually the discrepancy that caused me to investigate. Glad about that.
Its definitely an odd movie requiring attention and analysis. If you aren’t in the mood for that, pass. I get my friends comparison to Fight Club, at its core Enemy is one man who finds himself split in two by some poor choices which he cannot reconcile without creating another personality. The film’s delivery is not linear however, so it puts the viewer in a position of tracker as it moves forward and back in time to reveal how the situation starts, evolves and concludes.
The main character, Adam , is an introverted college professor who starts watching films recommended by a coworker to jettison him out of his work-only rut. In one film he notices an actor, Anthony, who looks exactly like him and compulsively hunts him down. To me, this was the start of the split and the interaction between Adam and Anthony that follows, the reconciliation. Adam creates Anthony to take on the guilt of a poor choice. Adam then tries desperately to figure Anthony out; in other words, himself.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays both Adam and Anthony. I’m not a huge Jake fan but he really deserves credit here for taking on two different personalities very convincingly. I noticed the changes in stature, eye contact, gait and speech pattern as Gyllenhaal morphed from the insecure, reclusive Adam to the confident, edgy Anthony. For me, this is overwhelmingly Gyllenhaal’s best performance to date.
The cinematography is brilliant, setting up a quasi-horror atmosphere in the otherwise beautiful city of Toronto. Almost every scene is awash in sepia tones and fog, smog or steam. Odd angles and flash sequences are inserted between otherwise smooth as glass scenes to generate discord. The aerial pans of the city make it appear almost vacant and somewhat disheveled, which is not at all the case for Toronto.
Pairing exceptionally well with the cinematography is the soundtrack, which is both haunting and tense, filled with half notes and conflicting chords.
And then there is the spider which appears throughout the film, particularly at the end. By the end you’ve formulated an opinion about what the spider represents. To me it was the poor choice Adam made initially, having an affair, and it comes back to haunt him in very interesting settings.
Its not an easy film to consume. But if you’re in the mood for a psychological thriller, a bit of a cinematic puzzle and (arguably) the best performance from Jake Gyllenhaal to date, Enemy is a good watch.