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Home Movies

By Karen Martin

This article was published June 27, 2014 at 2:01 a.m.

Enemy, directed by Denis Villeneuve

Enemy, directed by Denis Villeneuve

(R, 90 minutes)

"Chaos is order waiting to be deciphered" is the epigram for Denis Villeneuve's Enemy, and while the film doesn't cite its source, it's from Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago's The Double, upon which the movie is based. Saramago is a lot of things, including a Nobel Prize winner (for 1998's Blindness), but subtle isn't one of them. And the epigram is one of those statements that feels so true as to seem facile: Order is not reality, and it's certainly not truth. It's just a narrative we impose on randomness to help ourselves sleep at night.

Villeneuve has transposed the film, which concerns a pair of doppelgangers, from some unnamed sprawling metropolis to a concrete-colored Toronto and injected the film with a distinctly Canadian feel. His characters behave nothing like Americans, and maybe nothing like actual people would in the real world. But that's Saramago; he's hardly Emile Zola.

Adam, a depressive history professor, and confident Anthony, a small-time film actor who nevertheless seems to live large, are portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, who differentiates between them by subtle shifts of body language.

Associate professor Adam is slogging through the everydayness of his life, delivering the same lectures all day, then returning to the same bland high-rise apartment every evening, when he's eventually joined by his girlfriend (Melanie Laurent), with whom he shares sad dinners and sadder sex. One afternoon he's accosted in the faculty lounge by a co-worker who makes a movie recommendation. While Adam admits he "doesn't really like movies" he goes to a video store and rents a copy of the film.

It's not much of a movie but something about it bothers him. So he gets up in the middle of the night and watches it again and spots his exact double, playing Bellboy No. 3. Adam is thoroughly freaked out by the existence of his clone. He rents Anthony's other movies and eventually tracks the guy down.

Perhaps Adam is Anthony, perhaps he's a split personality who has just discovered what the other half of his divided self has gotten up to. But around the 30-minute mark the movie switches to Anthony's perspective. There are indeed two men, identical in every way except for their minds and experiences.

If you're the sort who goes into the multiplex looking for tidy answers, then Enemy is liable to leave you baffled, if not angry. Things get progressively weirder, propelled by the atonal score by Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi and a cool diffuse light that reveals Toronto as a city of fascist architecture as we near the end. But for all its feints toward the surreal, Enemy never quite achieves its ambitions.

Winter's Tale (PG-13, 118 minutes) Fans of the epic 1983 novel by Mark Helprin on which Winter's Tale is based held their collective breaths, hoping for the best with this film version but fearing the worst. Their fears were well-founded. Apparently aimed at an audience of romantically inclined teenage girls, sentimental, nonsensical Winter's Tale stars Colin Farrell as a petty thief circa 1915 who breaks into the house of a newspaper publisher (William Hurt), where he encounters the publisher's daughter (Jessica Brown Findlay), who is dying of consumption. They fall in love, get caught up in a supernatural battle with a demon (Russell Crowe), do some time-traveling and mess around with a flying white horse. It's earnest, mystical, great-looking and fantastic, but fails to connect with audiences, leaving itself wide open to snarky responses. With Eva Marie Saint, Jennifer Connelly, Will Smith; directed by Akiva Goldsman.

FrackNation (PG, 77 minutes) This persistent, rather haphazard documentary, directed by Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Magdalena Segieda, spends its brief running time debunking the assertions made in Josh Fox' anti-fracking documentary Gasland. The film's goal is to prove that shale gas might be the miracle of the 21st century.

Rob the Mob (R, 104 minutes) This crackling-bright comedy drama, based on a true story, is loaded with charm and sassy dialogue, thanks to the interplay between its two main characters. After paying the price for their petty crimes, dimwitted outlaw lovers Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosie (Nina Arianda) decide to go straight. They land jobs at a debt-collection agency, but pretty soon Tommy is sneaking off to attend the trial of notorious hit man Sammy Gravano, whose testimony drops a casual reference to a no-guns policy at Mafia social clubs that gets Tommy thinking about a way to make some money. With Andy Garcia, Ray Romano, Griffin Dunne; directed by Raymond De Felitta.

300: Rise of an Empire (R, 103 minutes) Based on Frank Miller's graphic novel Xerxes, this parallel to 300 follows Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) as he struggles to unite Greece by leading a charge that could change the course of the war against the invading Persian forces made up of women and led by ultra-warrior Artemisia (Eva Green, who played Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale). Her stormy performance brings vibrant energy to the usual carnage and roaring that make up these sorts of films. With Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headey (Game of Thrones); directed by Noam Murro.

MovieStyle on 06/27/2014

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