The doppelgänger makes frequent appearances on film and is something of a go-to for film school projects. I don’t know that Enemy necessarily treads any new ground, but under Denis Villenueve’s direction, the film certainly ups the creepiness factor.
There is a seething, roiling cauldron underneath the starkly tense surface of Enemy. Tonally, Villenueve gets the sinister quality of the double exactly right. Some thanks should also go to José Saramago’s novel, The Double, upon which the film is loosely based.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the doubles. Adam Bell is a university professor sliding into a major depressive episode, and while watching a film late one night discovers an actor, Anthony Clair, who looks exactly like him. Adam tracks Anthony down, and almost immediately begins to regret it. Adam wants to understand how they came to be (are they brothers?), but it is immediately clear that Anthony wants more, a relationship, an intertwining, but not a friendship.
Gyllenhaal flawlessly switches between playing the exhausted, cautious Adam and the sinister, smiling Anthony. There is always the sense that something is horribly wrong, that this all might be some sort of terrible dream. The film keeps marching on, twisting our insides as Adam, coward that he is, is unable to resist Anthony’s manipulation.
The film ends with a bizarre, shocking image that recalibrates the film, forcing you to re-think everything you’ve just seen. Enemy manages to surprise, and that’s saying something considering how hackneyed the central premise of the doppelgänger is.