johnlink ranks ENEMY (2013)

This is a thriller I knew nothing about other than the tagline: A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal in one of those two-characters-for-the-price-of-one deals. Knowing nothing about it, I had no idea I was in for a really weird time.


I watched ENEMY (2013) on 1.5.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives a boring life. He is a boring history professor with a boring apartment. He has a nice girlfriend (Melaine Laurent) who he makes love to the same way every night. He teaches the same lesson over and over. He does the same routine time and again. One night, he breaks that routine and watches a movie. In the movie he discovers a small background character played by a man named Anthony (also Jake Gyllenhaal). Anthony looks exactly like Adam. So Adam starts to stalk him.

While this premise seems like it defies logic, the movie absolutely embraces this concept. The point, as you soon discover, is that these two men are exactly alike down to their body scars. Adam has a pregnant wife Sarah Gadon) who is still hurting from some cheating that happened a while back. That proves to be a vital piece of figuring out the mystery of this film, as it were.

This is a very slow, bleak, quiet movie. There is honesty found in the silence, even if that silence is often broken by a single note of some instrument of the score playing like a melancholy foghorn over the proceedings. Bleak is not always bad, but here in ENEMY it rarely leads to revelation.

The reviews of this movie seem to fall into two camps. Either people like it because they ‘get it’ or they don’t like it because there is little to get. This has been called a film which plays like something from David Lynch. That comparison makes some sense, because there are depictions of spiders in this movie which make no literal sense to the story. Yet, to get that spider gimmick is to get the movie. To figure out what the spiders represent is to unlock everything. Where David Lynch, most notably with MULHOLLAND DRIVE, creates a dream world which needs a nearly impossible key to unlock, ENEMY is really only one layer deep. It is very possible to ‘get’ what is going on, but to still feel like there isn’t much there. The film starts with a quote “Chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered.” With this movie, once you decipher the chaos, it turns out that the order isn’t overwhelmingly interesting.


That is not to say that Director Denis Villeneuve has nothing to offer us. There are some wonderfully captured moments involving layers of duality and identity confusion. The two male leads are not the only doubles in the frame, and that works to help solidify theme. The bleak world of the first half hour of the film does get brighter, thank goodness, but brighter in this film does not mean better in terms of a character’s psyche. This is a film about male sexuality, about male duality, about a person who is not happy, and about a person who seems to have everything and nothing at the same time. Those all fall into the characters of Adam and Andrew as the nature of their separate identities becomes more clear in the final act of the film.

I’m glad I watched ENEMY. It is an interesting film. It has more thoughts than many thrillers and shows real commitment to its story. To say I didn’t really enjoy it maybe isn’t fair, but it certainly is the truth. And if ENEMY is a movie about anything, it is a movie about the meaning of truth. And spiders.




FINAL SCORE: 5.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on January 6, 2015.

3 Responses to “johnlink ranks ENEMY (2013)”

  1. It’s confusing, but effectively done so. Good review John.

  2. I liked this film for the most part until the very last shot almost made me shit my pants.

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