Reviews

Duplicity

3

Mr & Mrs Smith for grown-ups…

Deception, Derailed, Double Jeopardy – do the titles of these built-to-thrill efforts ever give you Déjà Vu?

Generic-sounding it may be, but writer/director Tony Gilroy’s latest effort has the pedigree of a prestige pic, matching the crew of his Oscar-winning Michael Clayton with a cast that have sparred together before – quite appropriate for a film about copying formulas.

Owen and Roberts are ex-spies and ex-lovers who find themselves on opposite intelligence teams in a “corporate deathmatch” between Giamatti and Wilkinson’s warring CEOs. As the film flits from boardroom to bedroom, globetrotting through Rome, New York and Dubai, it tracks the many mornings after of their distrustful trysts, juxtaposing their professional and personal lives as it builds to an almighty sting.

Though it’s a little po-faced for what purports to be a romantic caper, there’s much to enjoy: the glossy locations, a slow-motion smackdown between Giamatti and Wilkinson, and the sense that this is real espionage where photocopied secrets play more of a part than Quantum Of Solace-style plane wrangling.

There are problems though: Owen’s cocky and Roberts is cold, which hardly plays to their strengths; they have several very public spats – not a great idea for those involved in international subterfuge; and you get the sense that Gilroy is trying a bit too hard to misdirect us in order to shout: “Gotcha!”, albeit with some justification.

Occasionally the image shrinks and separates into a four-way split screen, suggesting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle coming together. Clever, but Owen and Roberts mislead each other to the point of superfluity, the last shot stranding them between two ornate curtains as if acknowledging the overly staged nature of the set-up.

After a nail-biting climax and the requisite reversals demanded by the title, the closing song claims that “being bad never felt so good”, but “being better than average” would be nearer the mark. It’s a class act, but even as you doubt what you’re seeing, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

Matt Glasby
 

Verdict:

Furrowed of brow where it should be frothy, this nimble espionage thriller is a bit too clever for its own good – not a criticism you hear too often in Hollywood.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Stevew29

      Mar 21st 2009, 12:38

      2

      This film just didn't work for me. The story jumped backwards and forwards so much that it became tedious. The main characters were not endearing and lacked charisma. Not quite dreadful but almost.

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    • graham6

      Mar 22nd 2009, 14:07

      4

      I really enjoyed this! I thought it was slick, stylish, sizziling with chemistry and a great return for Julia Roberts! It was difficult to understand at the beginning, so that was definietly the worst part of the film, but it all fell together nicely at the end, with a great ending. Clive Owen was the only bad thing about the film for me; he's not that great an actor!

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    • barnabythefilmviewer.blogspot.com

      Mar 29th 2009, 19:56

      3

      There’s one nagging problem with Duplicity that needs to be addressed. Every time there is a revelation, whether it be a rehearsed contrived meeting or a recorded conversation between the two leads, a little “and aren’t we clever” moment seems to echo within the screenplay, as if marvelling at its own brilliance. And just for the record – brilliant it certainly is not. I should first mention that, although this film just about scrapes through into a level of passable entertainment, Tony Gilroy (writer and director) is a very talented film maker, whose 2007 thriller Michael Clayton was one of the highlights of that year. But with this fun but light-weight mixture of Mr & Mrs Smith and, yes, Michael Clayton, it’s the sheer repetitiveness of the screenplay that really knocks it out of the calibre of intelligence it likes to think it inhabits. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen lead the action with a likeable confidence as two spies that decide to sell a secret product from under the nose of two large cosmetics companies. This leads to some funny, but, surprise surprise, repetitive scenes of b***hy competiveness between the two company bosses – Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti – but never gives the film the added punch or drive to make it look as good as it did in the trailer. Julia Roberts works her stony stares and bright smiles to good effect, but overall the whole thing ends up feeling a little bit overwritten.

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    • duncan1964

      May 15th 2009, 14:29

      3

      Stylish, witty and clever espionage thriller with a difference. Great performances, very snappy dialogue and a refreshing lack of violence, sex and bad language make this an unexpected treat

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    • Phoenix81

      Jul 28th 2009, 15:11

      3

      Pretty smart, sexy thriller - Just a shame the ending was a bit poor or could have been a 4

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    • CreativePen

      Aug 8th 2010, 17:06

      4

      Back in 2007 director Tony Gilroy delivered one of the year’s best films in Michael Clayton. Fast forward 24 months and we find the writer/director back on similar territory with his stylish follow-up, Duplicity. The movie is aptly titled given that things are never quite what they seem. And like the two central characters – played with aplomb by Clive Owen and Julia Roberts – the audience is constantly kept on its feet in a world of double-crosses. As good as Clayton? Nah. Better than Transformers 2? Does the Pope like biscuits? Everybody does…In a nutshell Gilroy shifts the action from the seedy legal underbelly of Michael Clayton to the slimy world of corporate espionage. But unlike the ruthless depiction of America’s legal elite in Clayton, Gilroy adopts a more playful approach with Duplicity. Sure, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of corporate America, but Duplicity throws out more one-liners than a cracked-up Scrabble player. Roberts and Owen revel in their roles as corporate operatives who join forces to pull off the biggest heist of their careers. Tension ensues as the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse descends into one double cross after another. And the slick dialogue – which at times resembles verbal tennis – meshes well with a plot full of twists and turns. Duplicity opens with a gloriously unusual slow motion fight between corporate tyc**ns Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. Stylistically it bears no resemblence to the slick cinematography that follows. But as a set piece I found this daringly unusual intro genuinely funny. The 24-esque split screen interludes were less appealing but nonetheless served to underscore the movie’s spy-like credentials. At a running time of 125 minutes, Duplicity loses some of its sizzle in the third act as the intricate plot unravels, but the anticlimactic pay-off is worth it. At least, I thought so. I’m a big fan of film noir and would cite classics such as The Big Sleep and Chinatown among my all time favourites. And while Duplicity fails to reach the creative heights of such masterpieces, it oozes dialogue capable of rivalling landmark films. Sleek, sexy, and smart...and I’m not just talking about Julia Roberts. (Matthew Pattinson is a freelance copywriter at www.creativepen.co.uk)

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