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Duplicity Reviews

Page 1 of 518
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

August 11, 2012
I read this recently: "Good writing takes the dull and makes it exciting; bad writing makes the exciting dull." It's hard to understand how this film fell so incredibly flat - as someone who's never been a Julia Roberts fan, it would be easy to start there, but really, she's no more or less boring than I usually find her.

I had heard terrible reviews, but this premise has so much potential: two spooks get involved in a borderline-impossible long-distance relationship and plan the Big Score Perfect Exit to be happy together. So what went wrong?

Simple: Too. Bloody. Busy. In Owen's best roles (Children of Men, Inside Man), he says less, not more - and when he speaks, he makes people listen. In this film, you see his pain at trying to deliver the lines as written. Maybe it's a cliche of the genre - and of course, why not try to challenge a cliche? - but spies don't talk this way, or even this much. Spy/Thriller/Mystery films, as everyone from Poe to Chandler to Hitchcock has shown, are best delivered in clipped sentences and long silences, and not the chick-flicky expository speeches we see here.

And when I say silences, I mean that the music in the background - if there is any - should be understated, or at the very least, anything but the distracting, look-at-how-intriguing-we're-being! soundtrack we get with this film, accompanied by the manic, 24-style multiple split screens. They fill the time just fine, but instead of building suspense, they - like most other bits of the film - merely delay resolution. A story that stalls this often - or worse, flashes back this often, to catch you up on the central relationship's backstory - doesn't inherently build intrigue, it just frustrates the audience.

The worst part is, the plot is pretty good - a bit cliche, fine, but if you do it right, I'll always forgive you. The spies, because they're spies, can't trust each fully in work or in love; there's a lot there. But when the plot hits its climax - a time-sensitive search through an office to make a copy of a secret document - we spend forever watching the team trying to find a map, to locate the copier. It was downright uncomfortable, and not in the style of The Office; I think Gilroy might have thought this had comedic potential, but it's the prime example of the frequent frustration this bloated film causes, topped only by the very last scene: as the final shot fades away, and the silence would make the point, THE CHARACTERS KEEP TALKING... and one of the lines is "It's just that bad, huh?", to which the other character cops, "Yup." My girlfriend - an actor, in passing, with improv training - asked me if I thought they might have asked to adlib that scene, and slipped in some revenge on the writer. (She would never do that, but I think Clive and Julia could get away with it if they wanted to.)

Suffice to say, it is: Just. That. Bad. The rom-com cliches undo the spy intrigue, and the spy story makes the rom-com-style exposition seem extraneous. Trying to hybridize these two genres is an ambitious experiment - something for everyone! Millions of dollars! - and all experiments are valuable for what we can learn from them... I mean, Casablanca was a pretty good spy/romance hybrid... but this film, on the other hand, only taught us a lot because of its colossal failure.
Jens S

Super Reviewer

March 22, 2009
This con thriller reunites Clive Owen and Julia Roberts after their great chemistry in "Closer" and they're immediately back on track. Both are playing former spies now working for multinational corporations. Whether they are allies or opponents, love or hate each other remains uncertain for the longest time. Fact is, their scenes together are a pleasure. The dialogs are fast and spot-on and even though the beginning of the film is a tad confusing about what exactly is going on, things get clearer and more exciting by the minute. The rest of the cast is great too, especially Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. The opening sequence of them fighting in slow-motion is hilarious. With the flashbacks of Claire and Ray's meetings getting closer and closer to the actual time of the plot, we slowly see through the maze of bluffs, double-bluffs and cons and still the end hits you entirely surprising. A smart, highly entertaining and engaging film that requires its audience's attention but really pays off in the end.
Nicki M

Super Reviewer

March 30, 2009
No one is more surprised than me that I actually enjoyed this one.
I guess I am not a real girl because I tend to not like Julia Roberts's movies at all (Pretty Woman? Ack! Notting Hill? Pass me a bucket). But this - this is actually a decent role for her! She plays a spy who gets involved with another spy - its kind of romantic in between the double crossing and bitching.
The movie itself is stylish and nicely filmed. I liked the split screen parts as it flashes back in time - those parts worked really well.
The plot itself was a little complicated and I am not entirely sure I "got" all the twists, but this kept me interested and I did not see the ending coming.
Worth a look, glad I saw it.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

September 19, 2011
It's funny, half way through this film I became quite frustrated, I felt it was getting quite repetitive and you could tell the ending would have only one of two possible outcomes and I wasn't really fussed by either. This was true up until a point. I've never changed my mind so quickly and so drastically about an ending as I have for this film. Disappointment was followed very quickly by fulfilment, laughter and a sort of sense of relief. Tony Gilroy's directing style is impressive too, I don't think he totally pulled off the split-screen scenes particularly well but on the whole the rest of the film was pretty stylish. Certainly not a perfect film, not as good as Michael Clayton but the love/hate ending really made it worth it for me.
Lady D

Super Reviewer

April 29, 2009
This film has it's good and bad points. The plot, twist and some of the dialogue is enjoyable, along with the whole battle of trust. The film did feel dragged out though to the point that by the time the twist reveals, it doesn't quite make the impact it should do.

It is typically "Hollywood" and typically Julia Roberts.
Mark W

Super Reviewer

August 14, 2010
Better known for his screenwriting duties like the "Bourne" trilogy, Tony Gilroy can certainly concoct a spy tale or two and here he uses his talents again. After cutting his Directorial teeth on the tense and gripping "Michael Clayton", Gilroy crafts another corporate espionage yarn but to lesser effects this time round.
Owen and Roberts play two British and American agents respectively. They specialise in playing people and retrieving very important information for their greedy fat-cat employers. Being so good at what they do and also sharing a close and intimate relationship they decide to team up and make a big play that will keep them financially secure for the rest of their lives. The problem is...can they trust each other?
Gilroy goes for a more gentler and slightly humorous and playful approach this time. The film looks wonderful, with lavish international locations and all basked in sunshine and champagne, setting the tone for the grand caper. He doesn't go for the dark, atmospheric and dangerous tone that he used to magnificent effect in "Michael Clayton" and unfortunately employs the services of Miss Roberts with her big, teethy grin and lack of range. These are Gilroy's first mistakes. Owen carries himself well, all-be-it his usual fare but it's a role that would previously be better suited to Steve McQueen, Cary Grant or by today's standards, George Clooney - who you get the impression this may have been intended for. Also, the casting of Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson as rival corporate businessmen at each others throats is potential genius. I say "potential" because this is one the films strongest points but doesn't utilise it and has these two great actors distant from each other for most of the film, despite a brilliant slow motion brawl between them at the beginning of the movie. Speaking of which, the beginning of the film is so strong that the rest pales in comparison. The actors put in fine performances but it all becomes a little convoluted without any real delivery of satisfaction. Surely an espionage film that has been running rings around the characters and the audience should end with a bang? This sadly dragged me into their games, promised so much, yet delivered so little.
stevenecarrier
stevenecarrier

Super Reviewer

July 29, 2010
Tony Gilroy is such a talented writer/director. His debut feature "Michael Clayton" is one of my favorite films and his follow-up, "Duplicity", is a step down, but still a neat movie. It's plot, while constantly involving and always keeps the viewer on their toes, is just too complicated in the end. While I certainly didn't mind it, I know others will. The movie has some beautiful images (courtesy of master DP Robert Elswit), one of the best scores James Newton Howard has every conducted, and two crackerjack performances from the incomparable Julia Roberts and dashing Clive Owen. If you are in the mood for a heady, witty, adult caper; then "Duplicity" is right up your alley.
Richard C

Super Reviewer

July 21, 2010
B+
garyX
garyX

Super Reviewer

March 9, 2009
Two former spies find themselves working for rival multi-national pharmaceutical corporations and the two set about joining forces to steal the secret of a revolutionary new product. I was a big fan of Gilroy's previous film Michael Clayton, and although it's probably fairer to judge this on its own merit rather than comparing the two, I'm going to do it anyway. So sue me. I like Clive Owen, but I think it's fair to say that he doesn't have the range of Clooney and as for the comparison between between Tilda Swinton and Skeletor Roberts, well there isn't one. It treads the same ground as Clayton, but whereas when the credits rolled for that film I felt like I'd seen something thought provoking and insightful, here I just had an overwhelming sense of "so what?" The obligatory jazz soundtrack and retro cut ins were all in effect but somehow it isn't quite the same when the "big score" is shampoo. An inoffensive way to spend a couple of hours, but in the end it's a bit difficult to care; especially since the final "twist" is so glaringly obvious. Essentially its as if Gilroy took the body of Michael Clayton, scooped out all the guts and brains and replaced them with candy floss.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

March 6, 2009
Duplicity is a perfect example of a trailer advertising a movie that's not really there. The trailer boasted a fun date movie with a little bit of intrigue riding on an Ocean's Eleven vibe. What we get instead is a movie with a lot of tension (sexual and otherwise) and next to none of the fun the trailer implied. The chemistry between Clive Owen and the usually loathsome Julia Roberts is passable. Then there's the matter of Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti who get so little screen time that they must certainly feel compelled to weird it up to make up for the fact that they're barely in the movie. Considering that Tony Gilroy's previous outing Michael Clayton (which also dealt with corporate espionage) was such a monster, its really disappointing that Duplicity is such a letdown. There are certainly worse movies out there but this should've been so much better...
Emile T

Super Reviewer

August 24, 2009
A screenplay a bit too uselessly twisty and flashy, but I was very much satisfied with Tony Gilroy's new movie. A very, very enjoyable one.
Lewis C

Super Reviewer

January 14, 2009
Duplicity is a relatively clever movie. It moves at a brisk pace, and never allows the audience to become too comfortable with the knowledge that they know what's going on.

Clive Owen and Julia Roberts make a good pair, and most of the charm of the movie comes from their interactions. Sure, the constant tests that they gave one another started to become very predictable, but I guess their actions made sense within the context of the story. Think of Duplicity as a light spy thriller, mixed with a light romantic comedy, and you won't be too far off the mark.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

November 18, 2009
I really enjoyed seeing Clive Owen and Julia Roberts back together, they're chemistry is always great. I'm also a sucker for the two anyway (aside from the Pretty Women fiasco). The plot was carefully revealed in a very unique sort of way. Paul Giamatti was also great, but not so much Tom Wilkinson (who is usually a hit or a miss). Frozen Pizza companies better watch out, Clive Owen is taking you down.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

November 17, 2009
Talk about a sophomore slump. Gilroy went from making one of the best films a couple of years back to this confusing and completely mind boggingly twisty movie. Look, I can watch Clive Owen and Julia Roberts go back and forth all day, but the plot was annoying and the whole thing was way too long. Speaking of which, what a waste of a fantastic cast that keep it watchable until the end. I will say one thing for this film, Robert Elswit does an outstanding job with the cinematography (what more do you expect from PTA's right hand man). It's too bad because I was rooting for this movie until the end which is ridiculous. Why would you make the people who you made look like the coolest people on earth for two hours (it's so long) and then in the end make them look like assholes?
Drew S

Super Reviewer

November 12, 2009
I'm not sure Duplicity entirely works, but I enjoyed watching it unfold. Tony Gilroy is Hollywood's enfant terrible in terms of the spy thriller; the man knows his way around a corporate espionage tale, creating contemporary and refreshing tales of capitalist politics and human greed. A lot of people have decried this as confusing, but it isn't really, no more so than Michael Clayton was. There will probably be times where you feel you're behind the plot, but the movie always allows you to catch up. It's complex, but not obfuscated. To hear an elaborate plot automatically labeled as a negative in a movie is really discouraging, to say the least, and Duplicity seems to have fallen unfortunately hard to this unmerited groupthink.

For what they are meant to be, the characters are great; Ray and Claire are a pair of barely human sociopaths endlessly one-upping each other, and though they don't come across as remotely likable, they really aren't supposed to be. The two are not painted as all-out demons, but like many of Gilroy's richly textured characters, we see them on an axis of opportunism/altruism versus good/evil. The ending of the movie reinforces how we're meant to feel about them perfectly. I'm not sure I would have gone the same route in casting - Julia Roberts and Clive Owen could do these roles in their sleep, and Owen is about as interested as that might suggest - but the actors portray them adeptly, with all the unctuous charm of a completely hollow couple of spies. Tom Wilkinson does fine in about five minutes of screentime. Paul Giamatti is surprisingly over-the-top, chewing the scenery in a way we've never seen from him before (this is not a compliment). But anyway, the casualty of having characters that are so difficult to connect to is that the romantic link doesn't always convince. I thought the movie was far, far stronger as a spy thriller than as a Owen-Roberts fuckfest, and even though the subplot provided some interesting parallels with the constant deception present in the Equikrom storyline, it just never really seems to cohere. Still, Duplicity's underrated, mismarketed to people who are frankly not smart enough to understand it or not interested enough to try, and an adequate piece of adult entertainment that stands on nearly-equal ground with Michael Clayton.
jjnxn
jjnxn

Super Reviewer

October 31, 2009
Ordinary corporate raider comedy drama with plush settings. Roberts, not looking her best here and Owen interact well but all in the service of a mediocre script. A disappointment considering the people involved.
Carlos M

Super Reviewer

October 22, 2009
Great performances and a delightful chemistry between Roberts and Owen work just perfectly in this smart, funny, charming, well-crafted film filled with witty dialogues and clever plot twists.
Dean L

Super Reviewer

October 12, 2009
It has been a while since I have seen a movie that attempts to pull off something as complicated as "Duplicity." While the performances were excellent and the story very intriguing the complexities make the movie difficult to stay involved with the characters at times and it ends up stumbling over itself now and again.
Two persons brilliant in the ways of espionage seek to find the perfect game to bring the money home while they also play games with one another and search for a heart in the midst of the chaos brought about by corporate 'spy vs. spy' and subterfuge..
The banter between Owens and Roberts is fantastic and Giamatti's performance was off the charts brilliant. You could see this movie for these reasons alone.
The concept is a great one and again I must stress that it has been some time since I have seen a movie try to deliver a tale that weaves in this fashion. It can come off as convoluted, but I would ask the viewer to stick with it.
All in all, this movie delivers the goods in a package that can sometimes be difficult to translate. If you can follow it the payout is actually quite good.
See it when you can.
Mark H

Super Reviewer

July 15, 2008
Convoluted spy thriller about two operatives in a clandestine love affair working for a CEO trying to outdo his rival. Are they lying to each other? Are they telling the truth? The art of the con can be a dizzying delight. Unfortunately the labyrinthine layers of deception presented here become a rather headache inducing bore. It's so confusing, after a while, it's difficult to care. We have attractive leads, some light banter and it's all very stylishly filmed, but in the end it all adds up to very little. Paul Giamatti entertainingly chews the scenery as the CEO of Equikrom.
Al S

Super Reviewer

September 23, 2008
It's Mr. and Mrs. Smith meets Ocean's Eleven with sparks of Thomas Crown Affair. It's an intelligent, sexy, witty, charming and a wickedly entertaining movie. A juicy caper that snaps and sparks with smarts, suspense, humor and romance that just make this flick more fun to watch. It's well-crafted, brilliant, sophisticated and tremendouse. Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are excellent, they have electric and sizzeling chemistry together thats just a joy to watch. Tom Wilkonson and Paul Giamatti are brilliant. A hilarious and exhilerating film. Director, Tony Gilroy crafts another slick, sophisticated and very entertaining film for adults. A dazzeling well-crafted, sharply well-written and wonderfully performend film. A teriffic movie. A total blast of enjoyment from start to finish. A great romantic comedy with magnificent twist and turns. A fantastic caper thats packed with laughs, excitement, stars and style. As good and as enjoyable as movies get.
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