Thursday, January 30, 2014

Duplicity (2009) [PG-13] ****

Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) and Ray Koval (Clive Owen) are former covert government agents, Claire for the CIA and Ray for MI6. Now they are working as industrial spies for competing pharmaceutical companies. The CEOs of the two companies (Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson) are bitter rivals who continually wage a war of corporate one-upmanship. In the current battle, one of the companies is trying to steal the other company's secret (and not yet patented) formula for a hair-restorative shampoo, a product which could potentially be worth billions of dollars.

But Claire and Ray have their own little secret; they are lovers, and they're running a triple game to steal the formula, sell it to a third company, and reap the rewards for themselves. In essence this is an espionage/heist romance. Clive Owen is excellent; he's credible as an industrial espionage agent who doesn't know whether or not to trust his partner, and he displays far more humor and vulnerability than in his earlier film roles. Julia Roberts, on the other hand, isn't nearly as convincing in her role; her performance is rather wooden, and she's not really believable as a secret agent or as Clive Owen's lover. By comparison, Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair have far better romantic chemistry, and are more convincing in their use of misdirection (confession as denial, and argument as flirtation), lies, subtle innuendo and emotional outbursts, all calculated to pierce the other's professional facade and throw him or her off balance. 

Duplicity was written and directed by the creative and prolific Tony Gilroy, and it's not as good as his writing for the Bourne trilogy films. The film's pacing is marred by the confusing use of flashbacks, with the result that Duplicity really requires a second viewing to fully understand. While the film features an intriguing premise, a great cast, a talented writer/director with lots of espionage experience, lush cinematography, great production values and locations in NYC, Rome and the Bahamas, somehow the whole is less than the sum of its parts. 

Labels: crime, romance, thriller   
Internet Movie Database  
Metacritic 69/100  
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=64, viewers=58)  

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