Tightly wound and agreeably strange, Denis Villeneuve's "Enemy" reconnects the French-Canadian director with his "Prisoners" star Jake Gyllenhaal for a bite-sized doppelgänger thriller based on Portuguese fantasist José Saramago's novel "The Double."
A bearded Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a closed-off history professor with an almost checked-out girlfriend (Mélanie Laurent), who discovers in the margins of a movie he rents one night a bit player who looks just like him. Intrigued, then obsessed, he tracks down, then reaches out to Anthony (also Gyllenhaal), living with his pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon), and — not unlike an actor working without a script — initiates a symbiotic identity crisis laced with subterfuge, jealousy, vengeance and surreal spider imagery.
Operating with a yellow-and-gray palette and a fondness for oppressive, barren urban spaces that suggest a story both old and grimly futuristic, Villeneuve does a workmanlike job maintaining a Hitchcockian tension built on sympathy for Adam's curiosity, before segueing into Polanski-ish psychosexual territory.
Gyllenhaal, the grandness of his eyes having in recent years graduated from puppy dog to wary animal, effectively limns his subtly turned mirror-image performances, and he's ably aided by Laurent and especially Gadon.
"Enemy" may be built more on questions than answers, but in the probing it generates a satisfyingly arch hum of weirdness.
MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Playing: At Sundance Sunset Cinema, West Hollywood; Laemmle's Monica 4, Santa Monica; Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle's Claremont 5.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times