Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam in Enemy
"Villeneuve knows how to stoke the tension so that benign moments become first unsettling and then downright creepy."

Premiered within weeks of his more conventional thriller Prisoners back in 2013, it has taken Denis Villeneuve's even darker and more psychological offering a long time to make it to UK cinemas but its uneasy, chilly atmosphere make it perfect January fare for those who have had their fill of Christmas sugar coatings. The film begins with the quote: "Chaos is order yet undeciphered", though it is less about deciphering than it is about the nature of and desire to control. The downside of this is that the plot is frustratingly confounding, the story never quite delivering a punch to match the atmosphere, although the ending has a resounding Kafkaesque kick.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays history teacher Adam Bell, whose boot polish brown hair and bushy beard stand out against cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc's jaundiced backdrop, which in turn, emanates sickness and melancholy. The world of Villeneuve's film has few creature comforts, the angular architecture of Missagua, Toronto, and the atmospheric score from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans serving to emphasise the alienation and general disenchantment felt by Bell.

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When he spots a man who looks exactly like him playing a bit part in a movie, Where There's A Will There's A Way, he decides to track him down. He discovers that though actor Anthony Claire looks and sounds exactly like him - disturbingly down to a scar - he is the ego to his id. Both men are in relationships with women who also look eerily similar - Bell's sex life with Mary (Melanie Laurent) is little more than mechanical, while the altogether more virile Claire is living with pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon). The stage is set for things to get psycho-illogical and Villeneuve - in a manner reminiscent of Sebastián Silva's Magic Magic - knows how to stoke the tension so that benign moments become first unsettling and then downright creepy.

And, as the runtime extends, just as with Magic Magic, we begin to wonder just how trustworthy our protagonist is and whether he may be losing his mind - a sense intensified by extreme nightmares experienced by Bell and dreamy, glimpsed visits to a sex show that will give arachnophobes the chills. While Silva's film fell into hyperbole, however, Villeneuve is more restrained, but is ultimately undermined by the cryptic screenplay from Javier Gullón - based on the novel by José Saramago - which gives no quarter to the inquisitive. It stubbornly refuses to resolve itself into an easily understandable shape, either with reference to the two men or offering a wider context about the way mankind as a whole may be sliding towards a uniform conformity. Still, Villeneuve's skittering, unsettling, creak in the wardrobe in the dead of night quality casts a long shadow.

Reviewed on: 05 Jan 2015
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Adam leads a monotonous life until he discovers Anthony, a small-time actor physically identical to him.
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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Javier Gullón, José Saramago

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini, Sarah Gadon, Stephen R. Hart, Jane Moffat, Joshua Peace, Tim Post, Kiran Friesen, Laurie Murdoch, Loretta Yu, Darryl Dinn, Alexis Uiga

Year: 2013

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada, Spain


SSFF 2013

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