By: Daniel Kilgallon, Staff Writer
In a few weeks, we will be getting the first Blade Runner movie since 2007, when director Ridley Scott released the seventh version of his 1982 original, suitably titled The Final Cut. Starring Ryan Gosling and featuring the return of Harrison Ford in his iconic role as Rick Deckard, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most anticipated films of the year for sure, hitting theaters on October 6th. Ridley Scott will be returning in the role of an executive producer and acclaimed filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is directing the long awaited sequel.
Over the last few years, Villeneuve has quickly reached a status as one of my favorite directors in the industry and I have loved all three of his American movies to date. An unmatched ability to extract the drama out of the stories he brings to the big screen has to be his greatest skill as a director. In Arrival (2016), Villeneuve crafted an alien movie that focused on the sheer drama of communication. With Prisoners (2013), he explores a devastating missing child case with great realism. The plot of Sicario (2015) tells an excellent revenge tale surrounding the Mexican border conflict, resulting in some of the most genuinely tense moments I have ever seen in film.
Along with those other titles, the last movie Villeneuve produced in his native country of Canada was very overlooked upon opening and is well worth a viewing. The plot of Enemy (2013) may be simpler than the other titles mentioned, but the content is equally powerful, drawing as much drama as possible from small, precise moments between people. Following Enemy, Villeneuve burst into the American industry, continuing to capture drama from relatively simply storylines. Having said that, it is very exciting to think about how much he can do with a larger scale production in Blade Runner 2049. Most big budget Hollywood productions are carried sheerly by visual effects, but if anybody can bring some genuine drama to the table, it is Denis Villeneuve.
Loosely based on the novel “The Double” by Jose Saramago, Enemy clocks in at a friendly run time of ninety minutes and was clearly shot on a relatively low budget. In the film, Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal plays a college professor named Adam who lives in the Toronto area. His life is portrayed as very uninteresting through his daily routine which he carries out with a prominently dull attitude. Everything from household actions such as going to bed with his girlfriend and making breakfast in the morning carry a certain dramatic weight in the film. The simple details Villeneuve chooses to include in this story make the film seem very human, while some quick editing techniques demands constant attention from the audience.
Early on in the film, a fellow colleague recommends a movie to Adam, which he decides to rent for the evening. He happens to notice a background actor that looks just like him and after pausing the movie for a closer look. Immediately in shock from this precise resemblance, Adam quickly becomes obsessed with tracking down his double (also portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal). From reading through the film credits and performing background research, Adam frantically does everything he can to meet his doppelganger, becoming more and more paranoid through his search. Eventually, the lives of these men become interconnected in a bizarre, frightening manner. Villeneuve constructs this film with each event building upon the last, leading to a incredibly thrilling climax of the story.
Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a pair of equally impressive performances when portraying these two men. This must have been a great challenge and I truly believe that this is some of the best work from the underappreciated actor who only continues to improve. Gyllenhaal brings a strong sense of realism to each character and perfectly showcases their differences and similarities. For example, Adam is clearly more introverted as a person, primarily staying at his apartment grading schoolwork. On the other hand, Anthony is a little bit more outgoing; he practically has to be as a professional actor. What links these two men together is an overlying idea that they each aren’t quite as motivated as they could be in their lives.
Aside from the exceptional acting on display, Enemy looks very good visually. The film is highlighted by an unsettling color pallette containing a vibrant mix of brown and yellow tones. This makes for a grubby, but necessary feel for the movie due to the oftentimes uncomfortable subject matter. Viewers should question the coloration of this movie just as they question the decision making of the characters. Combining all of these factors, Enemy seems eerie yet authentic and is not quite like any other film I have seen. At the same time, there are certain fantastical elements present which are brought back to our attention each time we forgot them through a strategic pattern of recurring imagery. On that note, I would add that the ending of Enemy is heart stopping and not easily forgotten. While this film has been interpreted in multiple ways, what really stuck out to me was the lesson of staying true the person you know you want to be; otherwise you will become your worst enemy.