Saturday, 26 April 2014

Enemy (2014) Film Review

Check it out...  if discovering a film which actually demands that you think about it's motivations, characters and meaning is much too rare an event for you, and you don't wish to pass up this intellectual piece.

Skip it... if a non-linear and non-cohesive plot, filled to the brim with metaphors, silent scenes and sometimes confronting imagery leaves you reeling in a negative way. 

Enemy poster

"No matter how intelligent or insightful you believe yourself, the meaning of this film will pass over you after the first viewing"

Enemy is a film directed by Denis Villeneuve, and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Sarah Gadon and Mélanie Laurent, and works around Gyllenhaal's character Adam, who whilst watching a film, spots an exact lookalike of himself, and sets out to discover how this could be.

Few theatrical releases open to as much confusion as Denis Villeneuve's Enemy did. Whilst given acclaim for the performances and the spot on direction, Enemy was met with mixed reactions on the entire meaning behind everything. Very much a visceral film, Enemy reminds me of Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives, a fairly good film, which leaned on it's visual approach, and images that told the story, without the need for dialogue. Original and complex, Enemy tells the story of a man named Adam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is a college history professor. After being recommended a film by a colleague, Adam finds that an actor in this film looks exactly look him. He sets out to discover who this person is, and what the meaning of this all is. With such a synopsis as that, the film sounds original and complex from the get-go, and that would be because it is. Enemy can not be compared to a single other film; it's it's own thing entirely. It plays with both psychological themes and unconventional story telling, and with that combination in stock, it's not hard to see why this film is receiving such a buzz for it's meaning and themes.

Whilst I do have to criticize the meaning of the film and eventuality that the characters do arrive at, I most certainly can't doubt and put down the ambitiousness of the director Villeneuve. Not many directors can create something so incomparable to anything else as this is. It's no single thing that really sets this apart, it seems; it's more an entire catalogue of techniques and effects that really drive this film into something completely of it's own. Gyllenhaal's stoic and committed performance/s, use of specific and often confronting imagery, complex underlying and more often than not deep themes, as well as a pitch perfect direction and style that is evoked form the man behind the camera. All of it comes together to create a film which may not necessarily be coherent in any conventional form, but something that is definitely unique and impressive in it's own individual way. From beginning to end, Enemy is a visually impressive film, as well as an incredibly well acted one, that showcases the utterly sensational acting capabilities of all those involved. As I've mentioned, Gyllenhaal's performance is stoic and mesmerising, but it's not only him who makes this movie into something of a tour de force. Near all the cast delivers incredibly committed performances, that require them doing sometimes obscene and undoubtedly difficult things, of which I won't spoil. The stand out here is Sarah Gadon, who not only gives everything into this role, but spends great periods of her screen time not speaking, but simply emoting. As someone who has acted before, simply emoting for long periods of time can be a strenuous and difficult thing to do within a performance, so credit should be given to someone who has to constantly sit in front of the camera and do nothing but emote. 

Technicalities aside, the thing that turned me off about this film, and no doubt this was the case for a lot of other viewers, was the difficult plot and meaning behind everything. I applaud directors who are willing to allow their audience a good deal of interpretation and keep from providing obvious answers to questions that may be best answered with thought. Unfortunately, though, this is where this film falls down. The meaning behind everything and every character is so far fetched and difficult to grasp that I worry for the average movie-goer. This film is metaphor galore, and if you dismiss even a few, you may be left asking "What the hell does all this mean?" for days on end. For some viewers, this will be a challenge they will accept with open arms; embracing a story and film which asks them to investigate and make assumptions on various plot lines and ideas, instead of just delivering the answers to them. For your casual viewer though, the metaphors, the imagery, the constant call backs to the most minor of moments of scenes in the film, they may all pile up in your head, and ultimately turn you off from everything. No matter which group you belong to, though, it doesn't matter how intelligent or insightful you believe yourself to be, the meaning of this film will pass over you after the first viewing. A second viewing may be appropriate, or I'd suggest watching an analysis of the film on Youtube. I found one by Chris Stuckmann on YouTube, which I've linked here, which will help all those confused by the various imagery and call backs referred to all throughout Enemy. Whether or not you perceive yourself as a fantastic analyzer does not matter; you will be stumped and confused the second this film finishes, and for some, like myself, that may not bode so well with yourself.

Whether or not you enjoyed the film, Enemy should be hailed as original; a concept that is more easily introduced than executed. We so often see films which take and pick from others, but to find something that is in it's own category is something that is rare and utterly fantastic. Enemy is more than just a non-linear film; it's something that begs discussion for all it's individual aspects and imagery. Even if you don't enjoy films like this, I'd certainly recommend that you check this out, as it's undoubtedly going to be a long time before we see something this unique and ambitious hitting out screens.  Embrace it whilst we still have it.


Junkie Score: 8.2
Worth Admission Price? Yes

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