Monday, March 17, 2014

Enemy: Movie Review


An overly abstract psychological relationship drama that is not the thriller it’s supposed to be.
Presented as a psychological thriller, “Enemy” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell, a University professor of political history. Adam isn’t a particularly happy individual – he has hurtful sex with his girlfriend (Melanie Laurent) and avoids conversations with coworkers. But one unsuccessful avoidance leads him to an interesting discovery. When watching a recommended movie (even though he doesn’t like watching movies), he sees a small bit actor who is identical to himself. 2013

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay by: Javier Gullon
Based on the novel by Jose Saramago

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal

Thus begins the tracking down, or hunting (if you will), of Anthony Clair (also Jake Gyllenhaal) — A rather angry man who drives a motorcycle and has a pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon). I liked Gyllenhaal playing both parts as I never once got confused if we were with Anthony or Adam even though they looked identical. The big problem with the movie is that it’s not a thriller. It’s a psychological relationship drama structured (with corresponding creepy music) as a thriller with no suspenseful or thrilling moments. And it doesn’t lead anywhere thrilling. Relationship dramas don’t need to lead anywhere per se, but if they’re presented as a thriller, then they probably should.

Part of the intrigue of this movie is figuring it out. When the final scene fades to black, the predominant question will be, “What the &^$#% was that?” Occam’s razor suggests the simplest explanation is the correct one. I feel that applies in this case as there really is only two possibilities of what was going on and the clues lead to only one solution. That is the correct one. Some clues to help you out are the thankfully small number of characters in the film, and the small number of character interactions, and spiders.

It’s the type of movie that is told abstractly and symbolically. Just keep in mind some of the meanings behind spider symbolism: they can refer to the illusory nature of appearances and protection against storms. And yes, I know I’m being abstract and cursory, but the filmmakers wouldn’t want it any other way. Because if you already know what the movie means or what it’s about, then there is absolutely no point to it.

The handful of other people who saw “Enemy” and understood it, loved it. I did not. Other than two crucial scenes to help me understand what was going on – the first of which was muffled and the second one came really late in the film, nothing was happening. Or at least nothing if you never cared about Adam. I was too busy trying to figure out if this took place on Earth and what supernatural elements were in play to really get to know Adam. But even on reflection, Adam was an unhappy person who had hurtful sex and didn’t like people, places or things.

The other problem with the movie is that it’s not “Prisoners 2”. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and it’s directed by Denis Villeneuve, but the comparisons end there. It’s not photographed by master cinematographer Roger Deakins and the muted sepia tones get annoying. Villeneuve decided to go abstract rather than interesting, and Gyllenhaal decided to return to his acting roots where strange doesn’t always equate with good.

“Enemy” starts out really slow with a strange, overly intense fascination with orgy sex and weird symbolism of spiders and creatures. It finally looks like it’s going to lead somewhere with the introduction of Anthony, but it just doesn’t. Probably because it’s not a thriller. The figuring out of what is going on can provide you with some entertainment for awhile, but then it’s over.

Similar Titles:

Moon (2009) - A limited atmosphere where Sam (Rockwell, that is) matters.

Prisoners (2013) - Two suspenseful approaches to one dark crime.

The Devil You Know (2013) - Lacks the thrill of the story and the sense of purpose of artistic merit.

Trance (2013) - Twisting straight away from reality and into ridiculous nonsense.