Dec 5, 2014

[Movies] Enemy (2013)

Tobie is quite the Jake Gyllenhaal fan (not that I am immune to his charms, mind you) and so it doesn't really surprise me how he manages to track down new movies featuring this actor. Heck, he often goes ahead and watches a few of them without waiting for me. I don't feel bad about it - he's rather adorable when he's getting all Jake-excited.

In this case, Enemy is a movie that I've heard about but never quite got around to watching for one reason or another. A few of the geek blogs that I follow highlighted the merits of the movie, but then it just got lost in the shuffle of day-to-day life, I suppose.

I was pretty dumbfounded by the time I got to the end of this movie. I literally did not know how I felt about it and I wasn't quite sure what had happened. The ending is brilliant, shocking and seems to come from nowhere. But then again, the director actually made sure to leave quite a number of visual clues throughout the movie that made more sense after some reflection.

And when movies manage to accomplish something like this, I can't help but be more than just a little impressed.

Synopsis: Enemy is a Canadian-Spanish 2013 psychological thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve. The screenplay was written by Javier Gullón loosely based on José Saramago's novel, The Double.

The movie begins with an unusual scene of a man watching a live sex show that also involves a rather large spider being crushed. There's also a scene with a pregnant woman sitting in bed alone. But eventually we get to Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal), a college history professor who seems to be stuck in a rather consistent routine. He teaches during the day, he goes home, and then he has sex with his girlfriend. Finally, a colleague rather pointedly asks him if he likes watching movies and strongly recommends that he check out a local movie called "Where There's a Will There's a Way".

When Adam does check out the movie, he's surprised to see that one of the characters appears to be played by a man that looks exactly like him. He takes to the internet and discovers that the man is someone called Daniel St. Claire, and he decides to try to find a way to meet him including tracking down the agency that manages his acting career. And we also see random scenes involving a rather large spider looming over the city of Toronto, where the movie takes place. You know the two are bound to meet and the results are pretty strange indeed.

At first, the movie has a very strong science fiction feel. It seems to be the easy explanation for why Adam and Daniel look alike. You might have speculations like how they might be twins separated at birth, genetic clones from some secret project ala Orphan Black or perhaps echoes from a parallel universe. The movie's rather eerie feel sort of contributes to this sort of thinking, which is pretty cool. Major kudos to the director for managing this through the combination of color tones, interesting shows and seemingly strange decisions for particular shots. Why did the camera track and follow him in this scene? Why did we turn this into some sort of long one take shot? There's a lot of meaning woven into the very production value of the movie.

In theory, you could argue that the core story could have become the subject of a short film - a man discovers there's another man who looks like him. They meet. That's pretty much the core story. But the way it was presented and how they supporting elements are explored to a limited degree certainly help things along. But there's no question that you're going to end up seeing a heck of a lot of Jake Gyllenhaal since the movie primarily follows the perspectives of both Adam and Daniel to a varying degree throughout the film.

That is certainly not a bad thing given the intensity that Jake brings to this movie and many of his prior works. He certainly has an interest in acting in movies that have a similar degree of intellectual weight thrown into the mix of things. Enemy is certainly a smarter movie than most and it's important to bring your A-game when deciding to watch it. Anything could be a clue to the greater meaning of things.

The way the movie ends is surprising and yet annoyingly vague. But my annoyance is meant in a positive manner - it's a classic case when the director does not provide you with a clear ending and leaves the viewer with a lot of room to ponder on how things ended and what the resolution might mean. It's the kind of movie that opens the door to conversations with your friends and probably endless online arguments as one interpretation is pit against a million others. It's not a sloppy sense of vagueness at the end of things - it's a deliberate one that feels like being in a room filled with a thousand things and you're asked to solve a puzzle. All the tools are there and there are multiple possible solutions - it's up to you to select a path.

Enemy is not your typical movie and it challenges you to pay attention to the clues and decide on the ending for yourself. Great acting by Gyllenhaal and brilliant direction by Villeneuve. Thus the movie gets 4 strange spider images in the film out of 5.


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