Jake Gyllenhaal plays a history professor and the actor who looks just like him in 'Enemy.' (Caitlin Cronenberg)
“Enemy” is quietly and effectively eerie except when it’s idiotic. Oh, well.
Most of the time it’s a stylish examination of Jekyll/Hyde duality that keeps you guessing, but director Denis Villeneuve frames the film in a ridiculous juxtaposition of pregnancy and spiders that begins and ends things on a sour note.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a history professor at a college in an unnamed Canadian city. Adam seems indifferent to his life, despite the nightly visits of his beautiful blond girlfriend, Mary (Mélanie Laurent). He lives in a somewhat shabby high-rise apartment and seems to be going through the motions.
Then one day he sees an actor in a film who appears to be his twin. Wracked by the coincidence, Adam tracks down the actor, Anthony (also Gyllenhaal), who lives in a much nicer high rise and has a pregnant blond wife, Helen (Sarah Gadon). Adam contacts Anthony, who is at first wary but then agrees to meet.
When they do, at a hotel, Adam is freaked out by the resemblance while Anthony is suddenly fascinated by it. Adam abruptly leaves, but now Anthony, a much slicker, more self-assured character, begins tracking Adam. And thus he discovers the lovely Mary.
The film starts to crumble when Anthony suddenly develops a cruel streak and makes an outrageous demand of Adam. The crumbling continues as Adam, for no apparent reason, goes along with the demand.
Gyllenhaal, who worked with Villeneuve on last year’s fine “Prisoners,” is excellent in separating his two characters in ways first subtle then strong. His slow-burn paranoia about what’s going on keeps the film going.
As do the movie’s essential questions. Are Adam and Anthony twins separated at birth? Are they clones? Are they one person with a split personality?
It’s intriguing stuff, but the script by Javier Gullon, based on a novel by Jose Saramago, becomes infuriating in the end with a too-easy switch and then the spider silliness. “Enemy” is one of those films you think is going somewhere interesting and then it doesn’t. Again, oh, well.
Rated R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Running time: 90 minutes