In Prisoners, one of the more harrowing but also more artfully haunting films of last year’s crop, Quebecois filmmaker Denis Villeneuve worked with actor Jake Gyllenhaal on some troubled turf. In that film, the innately gnawing and grating subjects of missing children and torture mixed in with the film’s slow, enigmatic suspense aesthetic. Cut to the surrealism-sauced Enemy, another Villeneuve/Gyllenhaal thriller collab, and the living is easier and pulpier, at least on some fronts.
File Enemy under head-trippy cinema from the lesser-traveled, left-of-Hitchcock zone, where our befuddled protagonist finds his identity melting around the edges upon discovering a nearly exact double of himself. Where the two differ is in the varying moral fiber and edginess quotient, which allows Gyllenhaal (sporting a healthy beard) to explore multiple personality traits within a single film, and keeps us — and the characters’ female love interests — guessing.
In some ways, a certain David Cronenberg-ish psychological twister effect is at play with Enemy — not the least of the comparison points being the doppelgänger body-double plot and eerie-erotic overtones of Dead Ringers. And in a few-degrees-from-David Lynch-land touch, Isabella Rossellini shows up for a brief cameo as one of our heroes’ mothers, lending a faint echo of Blue Velvet’s creepy dream dust to the proceedings. As with Cronenberg and Lynch, not everything is neatly wrapped up in the narrative here, and we’re less interested in the film’s character study, per se, than the pure heady fun of getting lost in an other-dimensional tale, gone nonlinear gonzo.