Film title: Enemy
Dir: Denis Villeneuve
Denis Villeneuve is a name any self-respecting film buff would have at the tip of his tongue. This is a guy who has, over the past decade, slowly become the most challenging and original filmmakers of this generation. He crept upon the indie scene with classics like Maelstrom and Polytechnique, and burst upon the masses with the masterpiece Incendies in 2010. I thought there was no way Villeneuve could outdo the raw, brutal yet intellectually simulating nature of Incendies, until recently when I saw Prisoners and then the incredible Enemy.
Enemy is unlike any psychological thriller you've ever seen. There is no definite start or end point in the narrative. There is no clear motive in the plot. You've seen plenty of psychological thrillers where you're unsure of what's happening, but there are very few like Enemy where you're unsure of what you just saw. That's the hook Villeneuve uses throughout the film and you become lost in the labyrinthine web of the plot.
The film is based on The Double by Jose Saramago but it only uses the basic plotline as a skeleton. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a married, mild-mannered history teacher who wakes up one day to discover a duplicate of himself wandering around the city. The duplicate looks exactly like him, talks exactly like him, and even has a beard exactly like his, except that he's an actor by profession and married to a different woman.
Thematically, Enemy goes way beyond the source material's depths and, thanks to Villeneuve's insane imagination, it even touches wild levels. There are images of spiders throughout the film as a recurring theme and you'll need at least two viewings to figure out why they are present. The easiest thing would be to assume both the characters being the same person and the entire film being a dream, and Villeneuve is clever enough to subvert your expectations. Every time you think you've figured out what's happening, a scene plays up that negates your theory. A few minutes later a new theory pops up and even that gets gutted due to logical inconsistency. At times you wonder if the film is just a cheap thrill, and even if it really were, it still works very well. Both as a challenging and cerebral puzzle, and as a straight up mind trip thriller, Enemy sucks you in and bowls you over. On that front, it reminded me of Villeneuve's award-winning short film Next Floor.
The final shot of the movie is by far the most audacious thing you'll ever see in a movie this year. It's a powerful and hair-raising little switcheroo and you'll be hard pressed to not scream in pure shock. Villeneuve has stated that the film was 'an experimental box' for both himself and Gyllenhaal and it shows. Most of the dialogue is clearly ad libbed and scenes are very obviously impromptu. The direction is so good the actors don't need solid lines to drive the narrative. The film is more a visual puzzle than an aural one — you just have to spot the clues, all of which are cleverly embedded in the tapestry of the aesthetics. It's classy, it's sexy and it sure as hell is one of the smartest, most engaging films of all time. It's quite the triumph for indie filmmaking.