Ultra-sleek, cool, stylish and smart filmmaking, 'Duplicity' amounts to fabulous entertainment, an insanely clever cat-and-mouse game that's supremely sophisticated fun.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative, and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship, Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO'S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did, in Charade). Roberts, with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen, looking great in sunglasses, prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style, and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other's throats. Giamatti, who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it, is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience, but in Duplicity, writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot's twists and turns. It's the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy, beautiful-looking film that's easy on the eyes, hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle, it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together, and Gilroy's habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing, even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though, and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found, scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes, is sweat-inducing, edge-of-your-seat moviemaking, and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the "con" to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.