March 13, 2014

Review: Jake Gyllenhaal Doubles Down – 'Enemy'

"Chaos is order yet undeciphered."

Quebec filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and his Prisoners star Jake Gyllenhaal have re-teamed for a creepy, Toronto set, enigmatic thriller about identity, duality, and existence. Enemy, an adaptation of the novel The Double by Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese novelist José Saramago, is a strangely erotic, psychologically bent film, full of dark, sexual undercurrents. It shows just how capable and confident Villeneuve has become at creating cinematic tension while getting the absolute most out of his actors through minimal action.

Gyllenhaal plays both a sad sack history professor (Adam) and confident part-time actor (Anthony) who discover they share the exact same physical appearance (down to the beard) yet starkly different lives. He does an impressive job creating two distinct personalities and characters despite no explanation to their dual identities or much of anything else in the film.

Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon play the pair's significant others with Gadon having a striking effect as a uniquely troubled pregnant wife to Gyllenhaal's Anthony as she's struggling to make sense of their lives. An intensely talented actress, Gadon anchors the film in a subtle yet theatrically rich, cerebral performance, bringing to life her scenes of emotional realism and confusion.

Enemy is tightly shot, framed eerily by cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc. It's photographed so precisely to  create a constant state of tension and pervasive sense of dread throughout the film during even the most mundane of actions. It makes the City of Toronto look so "ill and claustrophobic" with unnerving yellow landscapes. The film uses shots in place of conventional narrative and dialogue to move the story along as it explores strong visuals of spider imagery and themes of totalitarianism.

Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal have created an expertly made thriller about doubles with the loosest of narratives but the maximum amount of tension and intrigue. Enemy is heavy on themes of dread and circumstance, creating uneasy portraits of characters through atmospheric blocking and mood. It's a transfixing showcase of Toronto and its menacing landscape just as much as it is for Villeneuve's impressively controlled and darkly psychological style of filmmaking.

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