The concept of having a doppelganger is one of the more interesting ideas to me. Imagine having an alternate version of yourself, that while sharing the same psychical appearance has a completely different personality. This concept over the years has translated into making some really interesting films, because of the innate curiosity of what this experience would be like. There have been a number of very good films over the past years that have had doppelgangers as the crux of the big plot twist, usually science fiction flicks, but rarely are films these days centered around this concept.
This year though seems to be changing that with two tonally different films about this concept. Both Richard Ayoade’s The Double and Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy have been high on film fans’ radar. Enemy was especially high on my watchlist, with Villeneuve proving with Prisoners and Incendies that he is one of the most talented upcoming directors in the industry. Add that with one of the industry’s best in Jake Gyllenhaal starring, and the potential seemed to be there fore a great movie. Thankfully, Enemy meets its expectations and is the first great film of 2014.
Enemy follows a man who seeks out his look-alike after seeing him in a movie.
From a visual perspective, this movie is flat out captivating. Villeneuve and cinematographer Nicholas Bolduc shoot this film at a masterful level. Bolduc especially through his cinematography is able to express the very eerie mood that the film is going for. Usually I hate when movies have tints, like most historical films have a brown tint that just worsens the image, but Enemy features a color style that often was quite alluring to me. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before, and like the cinematography, captured the mood of the film.
Accompanying the stunning visuals is an equally spellbinding score. A collaboration of Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi, the two create one of the more memorable scores of recent memory. Whether it’s creating a sense of tension or giving the audience a feeling of uneasiness, the duo’s versatile score has a few tracks that especially stayed in my memory. The beauty of their composition is that most of the pieces are simple, but their simplicity is often times quite eerie.
Putting together all of these pieces is Denis Villeneuve, who really does an outstanding job. Every moment of this film left me breathless, with each scene being captivating and full of an eerie mood. This film also feels unlike any other movie made before, even though it has a similar concept to some. This is because Villeneuve very much makes this film in his own style, almost like leaving his own watermark on the genre. It’s rare to see a film feel so fresh.
Anchoring the film though is Jake Gyllenhaal. In a career full of fantastic performances, Gyllenhaal gives one of his best in perhaps the most demanding role he has ever played. Gyllenhaal has the challenge of playing two different personas, which many take as “act in two opposite ways to make the two stand out from each other”. Instead of going with the obvious approach, Gyllenhaal instead gives a much more balanced, subtle performance.
With both Adam and Anthony, Gyllenhaal is able to make each character stand out in their own way through his performance. Both personas have their different mannerisms and little quirks about them to make both feel like different people. Their dynamic on screen together is also great to see, as it becomes more and more apparent as the film goes on that there is more to their dialogues than at first appears.
Complementing the film perfectly is a great script by Javier Gullon. Gullon’s script is an adaptation of Jose Saramago’s novel The Double, which in my opinion had its fair share of problems. Gullon takes a big risk here with his adaptation, using the novel more of as a source of inspiration rather than a direct story. This leads to a screenplay that has a lot of major differences from the novel. Personally, I think these changes fit much better with the concept, and led to an overall more effective story as a whole.
Perhaps the biggest and most controversial change of the film is its ending. Without spoiling the film, the ending leaves the audience on a somewhat shocking note. Some have called it the scariest ending of all time, others have said its a mere cop out that does not fit. To me at least, Enemy’s ending leaves the audience on a very haunting note, that to me was quite impacting. It caps off that sense of dread that felt palpable the whole film in a very bold, yet intelligent way.
The aspect that should be most appreciated about Enemy is how open the film is to interpretation. I’ve seen the film three times over the past three months, and each time it left me with different little crinkles of plot that went unnoticed before. It’s easy just to see from all the different interpretations on the internet that this film lets its audience view aspects of the film in their own way. In an age where most film’s stories feel so obvious, this was a breath of fresh air.
It’s safe to say for me that Enemy is the first truly great film of 2014, and certainly a film that does not deserve the fate it has received. Director Denis Villeneuve is one to watch, as he shows the promise to be the next great director.
Do a Shot: for each spider
Take a Drink: each time both Gyllenhaal personas are on screen
Do a Shot: if the ending makes you shriek
Take a Drink: for each eerie moment