While suspenseful and intriguing, Kike Maíllo’s A Perfect Enemy is inhabited by infuriating characters that hinder the excitement towards figuring out its central mystery.
The compulsion to find out the big twist at the end is perhaps the key trait of a thriller, and the execution of said twist goes a long way in determining whether the journey was enjoyable or not. Kike Maíllo’s A Perfect Enemy crafts a suitably twisted tale, but the road to its end point is so uneven and inhabited by such a detestable main mystery that the compulsion suffers and the end result is not particularly entertaining.
Jeremiasz Angust (Tomasz Kot), a successful architect, is in Paris for a conference. At the end of his talk, he rushes off in the pouring rain to catch his flight, but ends up stuck in heavy traffic. A knock at the window of his cab changes the course of his entire evening, when a young woman, Texel Textor (Athena Strates), asks if she can hitch a lift to the airport. Grudgingly yet politely, Jeremiasz says yes, and listens to her strange and rambling tales throughout the car ride.
The unexpected pickup causes him to miss his flight, and so he begins a two-hour wait in the airport lounge – which, coincidentally, he designed –, when Texel reappears and continues to bug him with a strange insistence on telling him her life story.
Guilt, obsession and psychosis are key players in Maíllo’s cinematic chess game, and A Perfect Enemy uses a dialogue-heavy script to craft a central mystery that does genuinely intrigue. But Strates’ Texel is so infuriating and, for lack of a better word, cartoonish, that it makes the unfurling of the mystery frustrating to watch. The metaphor of the airport lounge being a substitute for Jeremiasz’s own head, as well as the constant talk of an ‘inner-enemy’ are effective plot devices, if a little on-the-nose and exposition heavy. The use of flashbacks is cleverly interwoven through cinematography and editing (by Rita Noriega and Martí Roca, respectively), but the character dynamics and final twist make the style better than the substance.
A Better Enemy works as a thriller in the sense that Maíllo has crafted a film that’s successful in its suspense and misdirection, with some twists tilting towards the genuinely bizarre. But there’s not a lot to root for and the frustrating central figures means that while it surprises, it doesn’t particularly entertain.
A Perfect Enemy will be available on Digital Download in the U.K. on Amazon, Google & iTunes from 5th July, 2021.