Duplicity is a slightly overcomplicated endlessly deceptive caper-story. When compared silmar tales of the genre (like Mr & Mrs Smith), the devilishly sexy and twisted spy-love theme to 'Outwit, Outspy, Outsmart, Outplay, and get out' is significantly lazy.
Modelled noticeably on the cleverly intertwined formula of Ocean's Eleven "what's the character thinking" camera editing and spiffy dialogue layouts, sadly it fails to deliver the same snappy witted, screwball-comedy-esque payoff.
The labyrinthine plot begins in Dubai, alluring Ex-CIA Agent Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) seduces, drugs and outsmarts James Bond-ish Ex-MI6 Agent Ray Koval (Clive Owen).
After Stenwick steals more than just his intelligence, Koval obsessively pursues her in hopes of reaching a truce. The unequivocal mutual-mistrust forces honour between the thieves and become the films motif.
When they meet again, and again (predicably already team up and in love) the ambiguous and ethically nimble spies compose an extensive and convoluted scheme to exploit the highly profitable cold war raging between two rivalling multinational cooperation's.
Claire and Ray's target is to separately infiltrate the counter-intelligence department of each company, feeding and exploiting the paranoid giants fears of leaks whilst covertly passing insider information.
Trail blazing frenzied money mogul Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti) will stop at nothing to obtain a formula he believes deceptive conglomerate tycoon Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) has perfected.
Hoping to unveil the purely developmental and highly guarded secret formula at his shareholders meeting, Claire and Ray have other ideas to double-steal the information and sell it on to outside competitors for a tidy sum of $35 million dollars.
However, getting their hands on it without raising suspicion proves to be quite a challenge, so does keeping the couples emotional hiatus of business vs. pleasure. Does the pay-off justify the means, or is getting there actually the fun part?
Stenwick "If I told you I loved you, would it make any difference?" Koval "If you told me or if I believed you".
Director Tony Gilroy's screenplay is perhaps too smart for its own good, the deceptive rollercoaster plot-twister ride is somewhat disorientating. Interweaving flashbacks/forwards whilst being continentally confused jumping from Rome, London, New York and of all places Cleveland is frustrating, even the most discerning moviegoer would find it hard to keep their bearings.
The repeated vernacular of the recurring meetings between the two con-artists is not only confusing but intriguing. It is however, pleasantly refreshing to see a film that manages to be this gripping without featuring a single firearm and having an utterly non-existent body count.
The star-studded cast gives Duplicity its main zest. Owen has carved a career out of playing icon spy James Bond style charters, without ever being him. The rest of the cast seem just as type-cast as Owen, but who is complaining? Giamatti and Wilkinson have the 'angry boss' act down better than anyone.
Exemplified in the wonderful opening credits, a dramatic slow-motion nostril-flaring fierce confrontation between these two rivals on a private airport tarmac plays out like a humorous ballet between two jaw-snapping animals. They are less character, more caricatures spluttering and knocking each other around with their minions and handbags in toe.
The only let down, acting wise is Roberts. Maybe it being a mum of three under five or perhaps her overly long Erin Brockovich Oscar speech, but Julia seems to have lost her unmistakeable onscreen presence and all over sparkle and is cold and flat in this movie.
The deplorable finale doing a sharp 180 degree turn and almost trying to introduce the characters with a new emotion tone seems weak and meagre, almost as it they were desperate just to ensure the expected and typical Hollywood happy ending. It was truly pathetic
The verdict: Although the movie was slow, it was also carefully crafted and had some spunk. Like my review last week of Knowing, this film suffers the same failed last minute attempt at a misguided clean and perky conclusion. When will they learn, if it's about a battle, let them fight to the death. (We don't want soppy endings!)
Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 10/04/2009