Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

March 27, 2014

CALLERI: 'Enemy' has a secret you must never reveal


Niagara Gazette —

The actor, named Anthony, lives a better life than Adam, at least on the surface. His apartment is sleeker. His clothes are perfect for his fast-paced, motorcycle-riding lifestyle. His blonde wife, Helen, is pregnant. But there’s some discontent there, as well.

The more information Adam discovers about Anthony, the more he wants to meet him. He’s leery of talking to him, but then he isn’t. He wants answers to his questions. The grip of knowing the unknown is too tight. As the tense film progresses, the audience understands why he wants something more. They become complicit in his actions. His first steps are fearful, his progress unsteady. The intellectual Adam will recognize that he and the shallow Anthony share a number of things, possibly even a form of regret about the relationships in which they find themselves. Again, how much does someone need to know? And what is a person willing to give up?

As it unreels, “Enemy” doesn’t burrow too much into the overly bizarre, except, of course, for those occasional spiders. Director Denis Villeneuve, and his co-screenwriter Javier Gullon, keep most of their jolts on a realistic level. The movie’s twin themes of wonder and dread keep us engaged. The mystery of what’s going to happen is allure enough. There’s no need to go overboard on the shocks. The doppelganger concept has been used in myriad motion pictures, perhaps the best being Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” although Brian De Palma’s “Obsession” is a very good second choice. Add David Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers” and you’ve got a very interesting evening of movie watching.

One of the reasons “Enemy” succeeds so well is because of Gyllenhaal’s outstanding internalized performance as Adam and Anthony. He gives both characters unique shading and nuance. As each man is thrown into a puzzle neither was prepared to cope with, Gyllenhaal delivers their emotional and mental turmoil with complete believability. He carries the audience through every disquieting moment. He’s a stranger in his own skin. Twice. He even makes the rooms in the apartments seem unsettled.

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