It’s difficult for me to come up with a decent synopsis for Enemy that hasn’t been over-used. Basically Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) discovers he’s got himself a doppelgänger, Anthony (also Jake Gyllenhaal). And then things get weird, like unnecessarily try-hard weird.
Okay, I’ll back up. There are some great aspects to this film, such as the thematic quality and the tonality. In fact, I cannot wait to see what else director Denis Villeneuve will have up his sleeve in the future, especially taking the only other film of his I saw, Prisoners, into consideration. This guy is fantastic with suspense. My key problem however, is that I’m not sure why the environment in Enemy is so tense to begin with.
The whole scheme is built on this yellow instagram filter and a droning score, and Adam seems unusually nervous. Then again, we don’t really much of his personality to begin with, other than he seems like a disinterested history professor who keeps pissing off his girlfriend (Mélanie Laurent) for one reason or another. Additionally, there’s a ton of tension with very little payoff – it’s kind of laughable, really.
Then when he meets the promiscuous Anthony, Adam gets even more anxious, but why? Honestly none of these characters seem like real people. There’s no explicit communication between these characters, so really everything’s up to implication.
An example would be when Anthony’s wife (Sarah Gadon) is upset after meeting Adam, and proceeds to respond to Anthony’s questions with “I think you know” – the hell does that even mean? If it seems like I’m being super vague, I apologize – but I’m pretty much giving you all the objective stuff we get to know here.
Also much like Prisoners, Enemy is speckled with themes, namely duality, identity (which ironically these characters have very little of, leading me to not really care who is who), dissatisfaction, and control. Oh, and there’s a heavy spider motif – I’ll get back to that. Of course, these themes are far from subtle, observe –
If anything, it can be argued that the film has far more to do with awareness than any of these things, but seems to throw the audience off with all of this other stuff in the meantime. Which brings me to the spider thing. Upon first viewing, I’ll admit I had no idea what to make of all that, especially the ending, which is a shame because I’m pretty keen about picking up on this sort of stuff. I was compelled to do some googling, and found this incredibly useful article, which is wracked with spoilers. I applaud this man’s theory on the symbolism here, and if his theory is correct, then Enemy could very easily be one of the better sci-fi thrillers I’ve seen in a while – that is, if it wasn’t for the overwhelming buildup, poor character quality, and overdone nature of everything else.
Enemy is a definite try-hard enigma that simply oozes “WHAT DOES IT MEAN” out of every scene and conversation. The trouble is, it didn’t have to be that way.
Final Grade: C+