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culture

Reel Toronto: Enemy

It's fair to say Denis Villeneuve's Enemy shows Toronto like you've never seen it before—and that's not a bad thing at all.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

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Profiling Enemy is tricky, as we fear that posting even the most innocuous screencaps will spoil things, because it’s that kind of movie. We can tell you that it’s set in Toronto, that a spider attacks the city at some point (or does it?!), and that Jake Gyllenhaal is the main dude, playing at least one character. Beyond that, it’s probably best to tell you just that it’s an insanely cool movie, but you may find yourself Googling “Enemy, ending, WTF,” when it’s all done.

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Denis Villeneuve has been increasingly prominent since making Polytechnique and Incendies in his native Quebec. He came up with the crazy idea for this movie while palling around with Gyllenhaal, and they made it, and then they went on to do the also-impressive-but-also-difficult Prisoners, with Hugh Jackman. The latter film came out first, and Enemy is almost more like a trippy, arty experiment.

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It’s fair to say it shows you a Toronto you’ve never seen before. It’s not the warm, romantic Toronto of Take This Waltz, and it’s probably a freakier, more inhospitable city even than the one portrayed in Videodrome. Every shot of the city is utterly straightforward in not disguising Toronto…

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…but it’s a tobacco-stained, sickly city, shrouded in hazy smog…

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…full of anonymous towers and few people…

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…with streetcar wires strung like webs from which you expect spiders to drop…

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…and it’s an aesthetic that continues even through stunning shots like these…

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…during the end credits.

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So, Gyllenhaal’s character is a university prof, and of course the only school that would do…

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…is the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus

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…with its 1970s lecture halls…

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….and the same Brutalist architecture that works so well as FBI Headquarters in Hannibal.

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Even the staff directory phone numbers (at the fake “University of Greater Toronto”) are nicely accurate. Everyone’s got a 416 office number, but it looks as if all the profs commute from the burbs.

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As you can see from this overhead shot…

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… Gyllenhaal lives in the towers…

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…of St. James Town.

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He also goes to rent a video here, at the corner of St. James and Rose avenues. The “Queen Video” marquee is fake, but they did actually shoot the interior at the College Street location.

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There’s a brief movie-within-a-movie he watches on his laptop…

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…and though it appears to be taking place in a hotel, it’s actually in Knox College.

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Then he goes to track down an actor from the movie, supposedly on “Callaghan Lane”…

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…but actually at 74 Victoria Street.

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We never get a good, wide shot of it, but he also goes to meet that actor at this hotel…

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…which is actually a Best Western out in Oshawa.

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And here’s a near-gimme.

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We really do head over to hospitable and inviting Mississauga…

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…home to the lovingly shot Absolute World towers…

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…but while the street number is correct, we’re actually at this condo…

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…at 3650 Kaneff Crescent.

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We also have a couple of bits on the Gardiner Expressway…

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where cars scurry past the Roundhouse like insects.

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Gyllenhaal follows gal pal Melanie Laurent to work on the streetcar…

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…which she exits to go work in this anonymous office building…

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…which we think might just be at 130 Adelaide Street West, which also portrayed a New York tower in Suits.

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Then we get a key scene under the Gardiner on Lake Shore Boulevard…

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…where there’s a big car accident right by the Jarvis Street exit. Man, they’re just always doing construction there.

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The next morning, a radio report says traffic is jammed thanks to the accident, around Bathurst Street and Strachan Avenue. It doesn’t match with the crash location, but it does match the voiceover.

The Toronto on display in Enemy is the sort of place even a David Cronenberg character would find wholly unappealing. It’s a creepy, moody place, and, though we don’t want to spoil anything, it may be in the midst of a giant-spider invasion. Or maybe not. You’ll just have to watch it yourself to sort all that out.

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