Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy is one of those exasperating movie experiences where reality and metaphor are combined into an indecipherable riddle. The film is certainly arresting to look at, and star Jake Gyllenhaal gives his all playing two disparate roles, but the director wants his movie to be both a straight narrative and a philosophical treatise on an unhappy, unbalanced man who may be having a psychological, schizophrenic episode, and the film just doesn’t work with that approach. We keep getting handed one kind of film at the very moment we’re starting to settle in with the other kind resulting in a movie that in itself is schizophrenic and ultimately most unsatisfying.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 06/24/2014
Mild-mannered history professor Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) has a rather bland, uncluttered existence though he’s begun to have problems with his girl friend Mary (Mélanie Laurent). Tipped off by a colleague to watch a generic romantic comedy, he notices in the background an actor who is his spitting image – billed as David Saint Clair. A little detective work reveals that the actor’s real name is Anthony Clair (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has a pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) and is something of a scoundrel. Drawn to his doppelganger, Adam contacts Anthony and agrees to meet him where Anthony gains the upper hand demanding to have a romantic weekend with Adam’s luscious girl friend before getting out of his life forever. But Adam for once decides to break out of his own comfort zone with his own masquerade at Anthony and Helen’s apartment.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
By cluttering his tale with surreal touches like giant spiders stalking a city (not the first or last time spiders figure into this scenario), screenwriter Javier Gullon (who has loosely adapted the novel The Double by Nobel Prize-winning Jose Saramago) and director Denis Villeneuve have given us a world where reality may not even exist. Several of Adam’s brief nightmares shown in the movie (imaginatively staged by Villeneuve, shot evocatively by Nicolas Bolduc, and edited in herky-jerky fashion by Matthew Hannam) are most unsettling and serve to keep the viewer on edge and doubting almost everything he sees. The key to one possible explanation for the “twin” Gyllenhaals can be found in a single scene appearance by Isabella Rossellini as Adam’s mother who drops a couple of well-placed verbal bombs (references to blueberries and a third-rate movie career) which can then enable a viewer who wants to take the time (the movie really isn’t worth the effort) to sort out what we’ve seen and will see to have it make some kind of rational sense. The director has stated he wants the film to be enigmatic and possessed with several possible interpretations, but for an audience, that kind of unanswerable puzzle is likely going to frustrate more than titillate especially since there just isn’t a great deal to go on.
Jake Gyllenhaal etches two very distinct characters as Adam, the subdued, tortured history professor, and Anthony, the sexually insatiable, motorcycle-obsessed actor. The script doesn’t really flesh out the two characters enough for us to get far beneath their surfaces (why is Adam sexually incompatible with Mary; with such a small résumé, how does Anthony earn a living to be able to afford such a swanky apartment?), another obvious failing of the film. As the women in the lives of Adam and Anthony, Mélanie Laurent and especially Sarah Gadon offer touching portrayals of women in crises. Isabella Rossellini offers a very straightforward performance as Adam’s mother (thankfully so; there is no reason she, too, should be such a mystery).
The film is presented in its original 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio and in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Color has been greatly desaturated from the imagery and the color timing has produced a dreamy, pale greenish look to the film leaving skin tones fairly unrealistic. Sharpness varies as the movie veers in and out of (what may be) subconscious states. Black levels are not especially deep. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix uses its soundstage judiciously throughout the film. While there aren’t many examples of panning across and through the soundfield, there is more of it as the movie runs toward its unsettling conclusion, and Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans’s jarring, disquieting music gets outstanding spread through the fronts and rears. Dialogue has been recorded well and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Lucid Dreams: The Making of Enemy (17:22, HD): director Denis Villeneuve, producer Niv Fichman, writer Javier Gullon, production designer Patrice Vermette, and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini, and Sarah Gadon all discuss their work on the project and their interpretations of what their film is about.
Special Features Rating: 1.5/5
Promo Trailers (HD): Spring Breakers, Under the Skin, Locke, Reasonable Doubt, Joe, Blood Ties.
Enemy is a head-scratcher, a deliberately plotted psychological puzzle that’s less a thriller than a mystifier. If you’re in the mood for something avant-garde, a rental will allow you to indulge in its weird vibe and unsettling story, and the film’s brief length will allow you to watch it a second time to see if you can fashion out a scenario that you might find acceptable.
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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