The film premiered in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2013. It was then released on March 14, 2014, by A24. It earned $3.4 million at the box office and received positive reviews. The film earned five Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Director for Villeneuve, as well as a Canadian Screen Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Sarah Gadon and Best Motion Picture. It was named Best Canadian Film of the Year at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards 2014.
A man attends an erotic show at an underground club, which culminates with a naked woman on the verge of crushing a live tarantula under her platform high-heel. Elsewhere, a pregnant young woman sits alone on a bed.
Adam Bell, a solitary college history professor, rents a movie, Where There's a Will There's a Way, on the recommendation of a colleague. In the film, he briefly sees an actor (the man at the show), which looks strikingly like himself. Searching online, Adam identifies the actor as Daniel St. Claire, the stage name for Anthony Claire. Adam rents the other two films in which Anthony has appeared, and becomes obsessed with the man, who appears to be his physical doppelgänger. Immediately after this, he searches some boxes in his own house and finds a photo of someone who looks like himself, with some woman's hand over his shoulder. However, part of the photo is torn out, making the woman impossible to identify.
Adam's girlfriend Mary becomes troubled by the change in his behavior. Adam stalks Anthony, visiting his office and calling him at home. Everyone, including Anthony's pregnant wife Helen, starts confusing them with one another.
Adam and Anthony eventually meet in a hotel room and discover they are perfectly identical, but Adam is reserved and bookish while Anthony is hot-headed and sexual. In a separate dream-like image, a giant spider lurks among the Toronto skyline. After following Mary to work, Anthony confronts Adam, accuses him of impregnating Helen, and demands Adam's clothes and car keys in order to get things even by having sex with Mary, promising to disappear forever afterward. Adam complies, and Anthony takes Mary to the hotel where he had met Adam. Meanwhile, Adam breaks into Anthony's apartment, where he finds a framed photo on a shelf, which looks like the one he had found earlier in his own house, but now the photo is intact, and the woman is revealed to be Helen. Helen realizes her partner is a different person because of Adam's uncomfortable attitude, but she asks him to stay and sleeps with him nonetheless.
Back at the hotel, Mary panics when she sees Anthony's ring mark, as Adam does not wear a ring, and demands to know who he is. She then forces Anthony to drive her home, but the two get into a fight, and their car is involved in a high-speed crash, which presumably kills them both.
The next day, Adam dresses in Anthony's clothes and finds the club key in a jacket pocket, and gets ready to begin life as Anthony. Helen gets out of the shower and enters the bedroom. Adam asks Helen if she is doing anything that night and follows up the question by telling her he will be busy then. As he enters the bedroom, he beholds the now room-sized tarantula cowered against the rear wall. Adam, with a resigned look, sighs.Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell / Anthony Claire
Mélanie Laurent as Mary
Sarah Gadon as Helen Claire
Isabella Rossellini as Mother
Kedar Brown as a security guard
Darryl Dinn as the video store clerk
Joshua Peace as Carl, Adam's colleague
Tim Post as Anthony's concierge
Misha Highstead, Megan Mane, Alexis Uiga as the Ladies in the Dark Room
Jane Moffat as Eve (uncredited)
Stephen R. Hart as Bouncer (uncredited)
A review in Indiewire compared the film to Christopher Nolan's Memento, and called it an "engrossing Kafka-eque[sic] mindfuck cum provocative psychological thriller" that "doesn't reveal itself easily". Both director Villeneuve and leading actor Gyllenhaal spoke of their desire to make the film a challenging exploration of the subconscious. To Villeneuve, Enemy is ultimately about repetition: the question of how to live and learn without repeating the same mistakes.
Regarding the two physically identical characters: "You don't know if they are two in reality, or maybe from a subconscious point of view, there's just one," said Villeneuve. "It's maybe two sides of the same persona … or a fantastic event where you see another [self]." Gyllenhaal says that Enemy is "about a man who is married, his wife is pregnant, and he’s having an affair. He has to figure himself out before he can commit to life as an adult."
Forrest Wickman of Slate points out that the opening line of the film, "Chaos is order yet undeciphered" is from a line from José Saramago's The Double, the novel on which the film is based. Wickman suggests that Enemy is "a parable about what it's like to live under a totalitarian state without knowing it," and adds that the central irony is that even though the main character is an expert on the ways of totalitarian governments, he does not see the web that has overtaken the city until he is already stuck in it. To Wickman, Enemy suggests that this tendency to create totalitarian regimes is part of human nature, that it comes from within us; he cites Villeneuve's comment: "Sometimes you have compulsions that you can't control coming from the subconscious ... they are the dictator inside ourselves."
Enemy received generally positive reviews from critics, with many critics comparing the movie's style and atmosphere favorably to the works of David Lynch. It has a 75% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 86 reviews, and a rating average of 6.7 out of 10. The site's consensus states: "Thanks to a strong performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and smart direction from Denis Villeneuve, Enemy hits the mark as a tense, uncommonly adventurous thriller." The film also has a score of 61 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 26 reviews, indicating "generally favourable reviews". A.O. Scott, movie critic for the New York Times, wrote: "In any case, much of the fun in “Enemy,” which is tightly constructed and expertly shot, lies in Mr. Gyllenhaal’s playful and subtle performances... Its style is alluring and lurid, a study in hushed tones and yellowy hues, with jolts of anxiety provided by loud, scary music." Enemy was also praised by David Ehrlich of Film.com for having "the scariest ending of any film ever made."
Enemy opened in a single theater in North America and grossed $16,161, later expanding, with the widest release for the film being 120 theaters. It ended up earning $1,008,726 domestically and $2,388,721 internationally for a total of $3,397,447.