Review: Enemy (TIFF 2013)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: A university professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) discovers that he has a doppelganger in an out-of-work actor, with a pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon) and some potentially dangerous hobbies.

REVIEW: There are so many things that are interesting about ENEMY, not the least of which is the fact that it’s director Denis Villeneuve second film to play TIFF this year, with PRISONERS being the other. To watch ENEMY, you’d never know that the same guy directed both movies. PRISONERS is a sweeping, epic thriller, with heavy doses of terror and heartbreaking drama. ENEMY on the other hand is a ninety-minute mindf**k that evokes a weird hybrid of the two David’s; Cronenberg and Lynch.

I approve.

One thing’s for sure, ENEMY is going to piss a lot of people off. Heck, while I was watching it I wasn’t even sure that I liked it, but by the time the amazing, stylized end credits rolled to a creepy Walker Brothers song, I was thrown for a loop. In the days following the screening, it’s stayed with me, and has been kicking around in my noggin’, surely the sign of a good film.

ENEMY is a film that defies categorization. I’m aware that my synopsis makes it seem like a thriller, but that’s not at all what this is. Heck, I’m still not sure what exactly it was that I saw. Even if you’ve read the José Saramago novel it’s based on, that seems more like a jumping off point for this exceedingly weird tale, which, among other things, features images of giant spiders hovering over Toronto. It’s really weird.

As I happen to like weird- as long as it’s backed up by talent- I was into ENEMY. This is almost a one-man show for Gyllenhaal who plays dual parts, with one character being introspective and quiet, the other being brash and confident. Their respective love interests contradict their personalities, with the quiet professor getting a trashy, sometime mean girlfriend (Melanie Laurent) while the vain actor gets a quiet, patient wife (Sarah Gadon) whose kindness and nurturing nature is underscored by her pregnancy.

However, ENEMY is so weird, I’m not sure that whatever I just read into those relationships is even accurate. Perhaps the key to a movie like ENEMY is to never try and figure it out, but rather to just let it wash over you. Even though the story is indecipherable, it remains enjoyable. Movies that play such tricks on your mind can sometimes be a chore to sit through, but Villeneuve keeps it short, running only ninety minutes. If PRISONERS is a novel, ENEMY feels like an experimental short story.

While this one doesn’t have Roger Deakins as the DP, cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc (who shot the Oscar nominated WAR WITCH) proves himself a more than acceptable substitute, capturing several atmospheric, arresting images of Toronto, which is shown in a way it’s never been depicted before. More than anything, ENEMY certainly demonstrates Villeneuve’s amazing versatility, and if PRISONERS seems bound to be a mainstream success (which I hope it is), ENEMY seems like a sure bet for a cult following.




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.