Duplicity (Universal Pictures, R)

duplicity-header.jpgAll of the characters are dynamic and entertaining to watch and even though this is only his second directorial effort he works with a master hand at pacing the action and produces wonderful performances from his cast.

 

 

 

 

 

Duplicity is an example of a movie which has all the components of a great movie but somehow fails to reach great levels. Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who also wrote and directed the fantastic Michael Clayton, this movie has everything going for it yet doesn’t quite live up to its full potential. It’s an amalgamation of Ocean’s 11, The Bourne Identity (whose script Gilroy worked on) and, well, Michael Clayton. What Duplicity is lacking that these movies were bursting with was originality.

The movie stars Julia Roberts as Claire Stenwick, an ex-CIA operative, and Clive Owen as Ray Koval, an ex-MI6 operative. Claire and Ray begin a romantic partnership aimed at making (read: stealing) enough money so that neither ever has to work again.

The two begin working for rival corporations: Claire takes a counterintelligence post at Burkett & Randle while Ray begins working on a special task force for Omnikrom. The head of Burkett & Randle is the very quiet and stoic Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) while his counterpart at Omnikrom is the impulsive and volatile Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti). It is never clear what products each company manufactures which adds to the absurdity of what happens. All that is clear is that both are determined to destroy the other.

Gilroy does terrific work both as the writer and director. All of the characters are dynamic and entertaining to watch and even though this is only his second directorial effort he works with a master hand at pacing the action and produces wonderful performances from his cast. Wilkinson, who appeared in Michael Clayton, and Giamatti are especially worth watching. The two phenomenal character actors are given room to show off what they do best which is stealing every scene in which they appear. The men share only one scene which starts the movie and is without dialogue. This scene alone demonstrates Gilroy’s talent as a writer and director.

There are plenty of twists and turns that keep the audience unsure of who they are rooting for which are well done and engaging. The problem, again, is that in terms of style and substance Gilroy doesn’t break any new ground. The interrupted timelines, flashbacks and plot twists make the film more interesting but they are nothing we haven’t seen before.

The film is surprisingly funny, though. With Michael Clayton Gilroy showed us he could make a serious, plot-heavy movie, but Duplicity proves he’s got a knack for witty dialogue and eccentric characters too. Owen and Roberts are both wonderful in their roles and it is hard to imagine anyone else playing the parts. After their rather disturbing on-screen relationship in 2004’s Closer it’s nice to see the other side of these two actors whose chemistry is as natural as we are likely to see in Hollywood.

This is definitely going to be a movie that divides both audiences and critics. Some people will love the fast-paced action and dialogue and will forgive the convoluted plot while others will be hung up on the romantic storyline and annoyed by the twists and turns. Either way, no one will be able to say Duplicity isn’t at least mildly entertaining and a good way to spend two hours and ten bucks. | Matthew F. Newlin

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