Director: Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton)
Writer: Tony Gilroy
Producers: Laura Bickford, Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent
Starring: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Denis O’Hare
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 125 min.
Let’s start from the beginning. Duplicity has the best opening credits sequence of the year so far. From there on out, this film is not quite as charming as Ocean’s Eleven, not quite as cloak and dagger as Sneakers and not quite as chemic or action-packed as Mr. and Mrs. Smith; but dammit if it doesn’t have enough ingredients from each of those films to make for quite the entertaining ride.
You probably know the simplicity of the plot: corporate espionage is at the heart of the story and playing both sides are Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. Are they a team or are they bitter rivals? Or are they both? Tom Wilkinson’s corporation is developing some new secret product and Paul Gimatti’s team wants it. But first they have to find out what it is and when it is hitting the market. Both sides must be one step ahead of the other in an effort to curb information leaks and/or gain intel. You can never know who to trust and you never know when someone will be stabbed in the back, so to speak. Except that pretty early on it is clear that it will happen at just about every turn so we’re also expecting it every turn.
The good news is that even though we know there’s sure to be yet another plot twist at any moment, it’s hard to predict exactly what it will be. And so while this is a fairly predictable film in terms of knowing there are twists and turns, we’re not exactly sure where those twist and turns are going to take us.
Much of the story is told in a series of semi-repetitive flashbacks. On some level, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on in these flashbacks and so sometimes it is a bit of a “sink or swim” type of movie. It’s not overly complicated or hard to follow, but Gilroy manages to throw enough curveballs to keep us on our toes. The style of these flashbacks are mildly interesting as well. The screen often breaks into panels of which we can see different perspectives of the action on screen or the location of the next part of the double-cross plan. As the scene comes to a close, the color is desaturated and the action panel zooms away from the audience and we’re left in darkness before the next, present day, scene fades in. All of this to an Ocean’s Eleven feel to the soundtrack. Maybe it’s hokey, but it’s different and hip.
The real driving force of the film is of course Roberts and Owen. Is the chemistry there to make for another Cary Grant slash Grace Kelly? Well, not exactly. But the script is hip enough and the actors are hot enough to make it work pretty well. It’s not electricity on screen, but they’re not sleep-walking through the roles either. I don’t think Roberts really sleepwalks through anything. I would’ve liked to see some more from Giamatti and Wilkinson, but as I mentioned in the beginning, they are integral to the opening credit sequence, which is the best of the year so far; and that’s enough for me.
While this write-up may sound a little on the “meh” side, it’s only because the film really only lags upon further dissection and analyzation. I like watching big stars that I like (see Closer) do their thing in an above-average March crowd pleaser. I like the little bits of suspense coupled with the bits of witty banter and sexual tension. And I even had some fun trying to keep up with all the little corners the film takes. Yeah it teeters close to the edge of mediocrity, but it’s good mediocrity.