Critics Consensus

Duplicity is well-crafted, smart, and often funny, but it's mostly more cerebral than visceral and features far too many plot twists.



Total Count: 187


Audience Score

User Ratings: 294,784
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Movie Info

Michael Clayton's writer/director Tony Gilroy helms this dramatic caper re-teaming Closer stars Julia Roberts and Clive Owen as two lovelorn ex-spies who join forces to swipe a valuable product from the big-business corporate landscape. Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti co-star in the Universal Pictures production.


Clive Owen
as Ray Koval
Julia Roberts
as Claire Stenwick
Paul Giamatti
as Richard Garsik
Tom Wilkinson
as Howard Tully
Tom McCarthy
as Jeff Bauer
Wayne Duvall
as Ned Guston
Dan Daily
as Garsik's Aide
Lisa Roberts Gillan
as Tully's Assistant
David Shumbris
as Turtleneck
Rick Worthy
as Dale Raimes
Oleg Stefan
as Boris Fetyov
Denis O'Hare
as Duke Monahan
Kathleen Chalfant
as Pam Frailes
Khan Baykal
as Dinesh Patel
Fabrizio Brienza
as Hotel Manager
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News & Interviews for Duplicity

Critic Reviews for Duplicity

All Critics (187) | Top Critics (47) | Fresh (121) | Rotten (66)

Audience Reviews for Duplicity

  • Aug 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.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Nov 20, 2010
    Great and surprising fun!Duplicity is a 2009 American romantic comedy spy-thriller film written and directed by Tony Gilroy, and starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. The plot follows two corporate spies with a romantic history who collaborate to carry out a complicated con.This film opens five years before the present day, showing the Fourth of July celebration at the American consulate in Dubai, where Ray Koval (Clive Owen), an MI6 agent, appears to seduce Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts), who, unbeknownst to him, is a CIA agent. Claire drugs Ray and steals classified documents from him. In the present day, Ray is now a corporate spy in New York City who recently went to work for Equikrom; at a meet, he spots Claire and thinks the mission is blown. Ray follows and confronts her about the incident in Dubai. Claire puts on an innocent act, pretending she has never met Ray, until they both realize they were supposed to meet. Claire has been working undercover for Equikrom at Burkett & Randle for the past 14 months, and Ray is to be her new handler. Great surprise for me, great fun.Give it a try!
    Andre T Super Reviewer
  • Aug 17, 2010
    As a whiplash whip smart comedy, Duplicity has a number of strengths and they all lie with writer/director Tony Gilroy. As a breakneck razor sharp spy thriller, Duplicity has just as many strengths…and yes, Gilroy takes top honors again. This is not a slight against marquee names Julia Roberts and Clive Owen—in fact, it is Gilroy’s keen eye that saw fit to cast them, seeing their potential as a modern day Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant (Bringing Up Baby, Philadelphia Story). Comparisons are a mixed bag, however, and Gilroy’s piece does not channel the screwball pace of these classic films so much as their intelligent back-and-forth. This is a well-played confidence scheme that is deliciously acted and beautiful to look at—in a class of its own, to boot. In the solid R-rated Duplicity, two former intelligence agents relegated to the private sector (Roberts, Owen) team up to pull a con on rival hair care product corporations. With the aces legal thriller Michael Clayton, Gilroy imbued the story with a social consciousness that burned through the action’s white-knuckle intensity. Here, the consciousness is not as, well, conscious. The payoff for moviegoers comes in spades, however, and Roberts and Owen carry it through like a well-oiled confidence team. It helps that they have one of the most winning supporting casts since Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, or even Skinteen. Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, and the rest help to build on a con that is – although never out and out great – at least really damn good. Bottom line: A good scam.
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 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.
    Mark W Super Reviewer

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