Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) has an ordered and normal life; a job he likes, a girlfriend he loves and a place to call his own. When watching a movie, however, he realises that one of the actors is his exact double, and goes about seeking him out.
Last year we had Richard Ayoade’s The Double, and this year Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve brings us another take on the idea of doppelgangers with Enemy, based on The Double by José Saramago.
Jake Gyllenhaal is on fantastic from in the lead role as Adam and Anthony. It is in the little gestures that the characters work, and Gyllenhaal reminds us of his strength as an actor, as he carries the film ably. Sarah Gadon and Melanie Laurent play the wives and girlfriends of Gyllenhaal’s characters, and Isabella Rosselini turns up as Adam’s mother.
The story, adapted for the screen by Javier Gullón, is all about Adam and, to a lesser degree, Anthony. Adam’s intrigue, paranoia and fear run through the whole film, and director Denis Villeneuve makes sure that the atmosphere is tense and uncomfortable, yet utterly gripping, throughout. There are times when the film’s 90 minute running time feels like it is a lot longer, but Gyllenhaal is so magnetic on screen, this feeling quickly falls away. Villeneuve sustains the mood of the film throughout, as we drift from scene to scene. Yes, there is a linear narrative of sorts, but the film is more a collection of scenes suffused with a mood, than a quest to get to the end and learn the answers. In fact, precious few answers are given throughout the film, which means this is a film to be talked about and discussed, one that is not easily explained away and one that is going to stay with audiences long after they have left the cinema.
In all, Denis Villeneuve proves that the dark, oppressive feel of Prisoners was no fluke, creating a film that is as much a psychological thriller as it is an examination of what it means to be human. Gyllenhaal is at the top of his game here, Nicolas Bolduc’s cinematography is beautiful and although the pacing lags from time to time, Enemy is a film that does not pander to its audience, and is as gripping as it is perplexing.