Ryan's Review: Tony Gilroy's Duplicity

March 22, 2009


Julia Roberts, as luminous as ever, graces her way back onto the big screen as a leading lady in the droll, sleek, and sexy spy-thriller, Duplicity. Heating up the screen with Clive Owen, the thespian duo does their best to keep things light and audiences guessing the motives for all 125 minutes. Swapping Mr. & Mrs. Smith's brawn for brains, without Roberts's methodical scheming lines or Owen's hurried wily quips, Duplicity just misses from becoming a casualty from its own smarts.

Second-time director Tony Gilroy whose previous corporate corruption tale, Michael Clayton, could have also went by this title, puts a brighter spin on Duplicity that is apparent from the opening credits that begin in Dubai, 2003 and end in New York, Present Day. As the film progresses we jut back-and-forth, country-to-country, all to tell the story of two spies. One of the two is the meticulously cunning CIA agent, Claire Stenwick (Roberts). The other is the naturally sly MI6 operative, Ray Koval (Clive Owen).

The two lovers, who are interested in living in luxury for the rest of their lives, leave their government posts in favor for top secret security positions for major corporations. Their plan is to pick rival companies and sell each other's secrets for a lucrative profit to split, assuming the couple does not backstab each other first. Stenwick finds herself on the side of major corporation, Burkett Randle, run by tycoon megalomaniac, Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). Koval is positioned with Burkett Randle's rival, Equikrom, headed by brash showman, Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti).

When a letter is sent to both of the rivals claiming that Burkett Randle is on the verge of releasing a breakthrough product, the couple is sent scrabbling to figure out what this mystery item might be letting the spying and duplicity kick into full gear.

As the spies outsmart each other, writer-director Tony Gilroy seems to forget that there is an audience watching that he is largely outsmarting as well. The globe-trotting, fractured timeline does not help either, but patience is eventually rewarded and you see two talented actors on the top of their game lighting the way. Gilroy never keeps the camera at one place for too long, having the film and plot roll along at a high speed, keeping the audience on it's toes, but the ones who step out will likely find themselves unable to catch up. Unlike the fairly drab-colored Michael Clayton, Gilroy is stylized here with the fun and lively use of split-screen.

Julia Roberts is poised and refined with impeccable timing and a great bluff. Clive Owen welcomingly drops his serious and somber expression that has been molded upon his face for his last few films to relax and show a much wittier side to himself. The couple who also burned up the screen in 2004's Closer, produce plenty of steam here, but never start a fire as their constant poker faces stand in the way. While one wants to see the two succeed together, their continuous deceit and lies have you question if there is any real love between the two at all. This is a question that the two characters wonder throughout the movie, even while they are sleeping together, because in fact they might just be gaming one another for their individual gain.

The acting is fine and enjoyable, but Roberts and Owen seem to be playing for laughs. The problem is the elongated script mainly provides smirks. This makes it seem like a failed laugh instead of a quick grimace.

Paul Giamatti is spot-on as the fairly nutty honcho while Tom Wilkinson is more subdued, creating an odd rivalry. The rest of the supporting cast is well-rounded and help sturdy the plot for the two main stars to have their escapades. "True Blood's" Carrie Preston is one of the film's standout supporters who is in both of the true laugh out loud scenes in the film. One paired with a bumbling Clive Owen and the second with a deadpan Julia Roberts.

The title of the film warns you for what is ahead: duplicity. Lots and lots of duplicity. With everything tying up nicely at the end for an amusing outcome, the rest of the film seems like an unsolvable puzzle until that point. While it is fun to be in the same shoes as the characters themselves, in this film it becomes a growing test of patience as the lies build upon each other. The jumbled timeline throws almost all hope away of guessing what will happen next, but it seems like an easy way out of throwing the viewers off. However, the twist ending a great shocker that is as ingenious as it is duplicitous.

Certainly a smart film that stands a part from the typical spy-thriller fare, Duplicity is a worthwhile payoff to see if you want to be intellectually stimulated while entertained.

Ryan's Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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  • Scott McHenry
    I think i'll see this
  • Derek
    The 'twist ending' was obvious from the moment Wilkinson's character makes his product announcement. The only people who didn't figure it out where Claire and Ray. It's a disappointing follow up to Michael Clayton.
  • Movieraider321
    I saw it at a screening exchange it was interesting I probably would have given it the same rating.
  • scm1000
    This was an interesting and informative review, but it could have used a good editor. There were sentences with extra words thrown in, awkward phrasing, and missing punctuation all over. If this site is to grow, it needs to be intelligent and professional instead of sounding like a high school book report.
  • Bixby
    This was the worst film I have seen in a while. I seriously felt like leaving but stuck with it hoping it would have an interesting ending. How wrong was I! This movie was bad, plain and simple.
  • jane
    this review was written like the back of a dvd box
  • Tim "Cloverfield"
    Other than Kirsten Dunst, Julia Roberts is the absolute worst! With great actors around her, her inept attempts at timing jump off the screen . Only thing worse this weekend was Knowing.
  • Movie Fan
    Can't say this appeals at all. Julia Roberts once again playing herself? Film looks pretentious from the look of the trailer. Won't bother, thanks.
  • Katey Green
    I agreed with your review just thought the movie was a little drawn out . Ive enjoyed reading your reviews. Keep up the good work. Katey
  • I can't make up my mind about this film...thought it went on a little too long.
  • This movie is mind blowing, i liked Roberts very much. She is always a queen in Hollywood. Thanks for sharing your views via this post...
  • Duplicity is actually quite nice, you'll laugh a lot, it's a feel-good movie, nothing wrong can happen. Clive Owen is good as usual. Julia Roberts looks younger and younger, why is that? 😉 By the way, great site, keep up the good work!
  • I like your reviews but this film looks pretentious from the look of the trailer.
  • hmm..not sure about this one have to admit. I am not a big fan of Roberts..not to I like spy thrillers...I just cannot handle it! :)
  • I overall agree with the review. This was a pleasant movie with an interesting plot and character scheme. At points, it was a little slow for me, but overall a decent film.
  • I must say, amazing review!
  • Good Review given !
  • this review is fantastic guaranteed trust me and if I don't recommend a friend I don't deserve the internet believe me.
  • I'm a great fan of Julia, what a a talented actress.
  • This is a amazing review. Julia Roberts is a very talented actress and once again playing herself. I've seen Asian's 11, Kilbill etc movies and a great fan of Julia Roberts...
  • Wow Julia Roberts!!!! so sexy she is... she is one of my favorite actress....
  • Duplicity, if anything, is fun and for the most part knows it. In fact, the best comparison that can be made is to the show “Burn Notice”. Both are hip, sleek, sexy, and entertaining thanks to solid talent and some solid writing. Unlike USA’s television show though, Duplicity tries too hard to be complicated. What makes it painful is that the unneeded complexities slow down and damage an otherwise fun caper.
  • I’ve been eagerly awaiting Tony Gilroy’s next directorial project, Duplicity. Honestly, how could you not get excited about a film that reunites Closer stars Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, and includes Tom Wilkinson (who should seriously consider hitching his wagon to every Gilroy script), and Paul Giamatti? Clayton proved that Gilroy had the directing chops to match his screenwriting prowess—which is saying something given that he’s written all the Bourne films thus far. Julia Roberts looking awesome in this film..
  • Julia Roberts"Duplicity" is superior entertainment, the most elegantly pleasurable movie of its kind to come around in a very long time.... It's a sharp, sexy comedy masquerading as a twisty tale of intrigue, and vice versa. And as soon as you grow impatient with the pre- or postcoital repartee of Ms. Roberts and Mr. Owen, a nimble army of supporting players comes forward to deliver Mr. Gilroy's mordantly funny dialogue with perfectly straight faces. Julia Roberts wow sexiest...
  • Someone said he saw Asian's 11? Lol..I haven't seen that one. Ocean's 11 perhaps?
  • technology
    Can't say this appeals at all. Julia Roberts once again playing herself? Film looks pretentious from the look of the trailer. Won't bother, thanks.
  • technology
    first off i would like to say that was an awsome interview, and second JDM is a great actor and i think he;s going to pull off the comdian very well, i loved it when he was reading through watchmen the 1st time he was like "im dead on page 3" hahahaha
  • first off i would like to say that was an awsome interview, and second JDM is a great actor and i think he;s going to pull off the comdian very well, i loved it when he was reading through watchmen the 1st time he was like "im dead on page 3" hahahaha Read more:
  • Well personally I enjoyed the review and like the look of the movie. I think the fact that you suspect the couple of being in competition with each other with lies and duplicity makes a change from the usual lovey-dovey couples in things together - of course only in movies, not real life! Thanks for sharing I'm going to watch this movie.
  • I think its a great move, love the plot. from a 1 to 5 ratings i give it a 3.9
  • The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post.
  • Simply want to say your article is awesome. The clarity in your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you are an expert regard
  • Great post! Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in 1 movie.. you can't go wrong there.




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