“Chaos is order yet undeciphered” is the on-the-nose epigraph that opens Enemy, a forgivable sin in light of how gloriously enigmatic everything that follows is.
Denis Villeneuve’s shared dream of a film takes the simple premise of a man glimpsing his doppelganger while watching a movie and mines every bit of tension and oddity from it — there’s hardly a scene that doesn’t exude menace.
Jake Gyllenhaal is inspired as both halves of one fractured whole: history professor Adam, the kind of guy who, in the first act of almost any other movie, would realize he needs to go out into the world and find himself; and Anthony, a philandering actor whose latent maliciousness stirs up Robert Blake-in-Lost Highway levels of uneasiness.
“Maybe we’re brothers,” he says to Adam after begrudgingly agreeing to meet him; the very idea sends Adam’s mind reeling. This rhythmic, repetitive exploration of identity is at its best when observing Adam’s inability to process seemingly unbelievable information, which is often.
Textural details like the underground haunt populated by tarantulas, masked strippers straight out of Eyes Wide Shut, and a final shot unlike any you’ve ever seen will inspire many to revisit Enemy often.
It isn’t just a more rewarding Villeneuve-Gyllenhaal collaboration than Prisoners but also the director’s finest work since Polytechnique.