Enemy review

The two Jakes…

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Jake Gyllenhaal gives not one magnetic, alert yet opaque performance here. He gives two.

As history prof Adam Bell, Gyllenhaal is a dry, corduroy sad-sack. As doppelganger actor Anthony St Claire, he’s all sunglasses, leather jacket and sex appeal. When Bell fixates on St Claire after seeing him on DVD and dreaming of him, director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) tips us into dream-state cinema. As Bell stalks St Claire, identities blur, pregnant/not pregnant lovers (Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon) look on suspiciously, and the shadows of two movie giants loom heavily: Lynch for surrealism, Hitchcock for suspense.

Anyone expecting clarity might be alienated right from the sex-club intro. But Enemy isn’t just an exercise in obscurity. The sound mix alone induces shudders, ranging from a nerve-tensing hum to a score (from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans) that never lets its grip slip.

Villeneuve directs with a similarly tight fist, his hold becoming more decisive as ambiguities mount up. He knows how to use humour (Isabella Rossellini’s knowing cameo) and humanity (Gadon’s anchoring performance) to stave off charges of pretension. He knows the value of juggling provocative themes – about masculinity, infidelity, duplicity – without dropping. And he recognises the value of Gyllenhaal, sharpened by working for a director who knows he can withstand a bit of stretching.

If you leave wondering if Enemy is a study in identity’s slippery boundaries, a riff on urban unease or just an arachnophobe’s hell, you’ll also leave knowing you’ve watched something that merits repeat viewing.

More info

Theatrical release2 January 2015
DirectorDenis Villeneuve
Starring"Jake Gyllenhaal","Mlanie Laurent","Sarah Gadon","Isabella Rossellini"
Available platformsMovie
Freelance writer

Kevin Harley is a freelance journalist with bylines at Total Film, Radio Times, The List, and others, specializing in film and music coverage. He can most commonly be found writing movie reviews and previews at GamesRadar+.