TIFF 2013: Enemy Review

TIFF-2013-Enemy-Review

Denis Villeneuve’s second movie at TIFF, Enemy, is a love-it-or-hate-it film. It’s weird, ambiguous, hypnotic, haunting, and has a final scene that doesn’t make much sense (although IMDb users will certainly have a field day deciphering its symbolism). It’s also a movie that you can’t ignore. I’m firmly in the “love-it” camp.

I should preface this review by saying I hated the David Lynch movie Mulholland Dr. It was the first Lynch movie I had ever seen, and over the course of its almost two-and-half hour running time, it weaves a narrative web punctuated by moments of unexpected strangeness (a cowboy without eyebrows comes to mind) before ending in an anti-climatic fashion that practically negates everything that has come before. Lots of people love the film (judging by the 7.9/10 user rating on IMDb) and I could never understand why. Now, having seen Enemy, it makes a little bit more sense. You either connect with this type of movie immediately, or not at all. And once you connect with the film, you can’t be persuaded otherwise. It also helps that Enemy is only 90 minutes long.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a history professor who watches a film one night and discovers an actor who looks exactly like him. He becomes obsessed with finding out who this man is and meeting him. When he finally does, they’re perfect doppelgangers, and both men don’t know what to do with the other.

Enemy isn’t really about plot. It’s about mood. The film is set in Toronto and makes the city look like a nightmarish wasteland covered in fog and yellowish tints. The throbbing, horror-movie-esque score plays throughout, making even the most innocuous of actions – calling someone on the telephone or freeze-framing a scene from a DVD – seem suspenseful and dangerous. I was completely drawn into its web. The film sustains this heightened tension throughout its entire running-time, evoking visceral reactions despite (in spite of?) its threadbare plot. I highly recommend checking it out. 

Grade: A

Sidenote: The grade above is if Enemy works as a film for you. If it doesn’t, there’s no convincing you otherwise. Also, of the two Villeneuve films at TIFF, I prefer Enemy to Prisoners. Enemy tries to do something different, whereas Prisoners is a great film, but still ends up feeling like a typical thriller.

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