“Duplicity,” written and directed by Tony Gilroy, tackles that somewhat familiar movie topic of espionage. But in a clever twist on corporate spy games, this isn’t the usual subterfuge, but instead the world of shampoo and frozen pizza.
Gilroy, nominated for a best screenplay and best director Oscar for his 2007 directorial debut, “Michael Clayton,” creates a tightly woven film full of enough witty dialogue, clever plot twists, and humor to keep the audience entertained for the entire 125 minute run.
Although “Duplicity” touches on some of the same themes as “Michael Clayton,” the entire tone and feel of “Duplicity” is just plain fun.
The film begins in Dubai at a Fourth of July party where MI-6 agent Ray Koval (Clive Owen) attempts to flirt with CIA officer Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts). He doesn’t know she’s a CIA agent until he wakes up the next morning in a drug induced haze and realizes some of his sensitive documents are missing.
Five years later they cross paths again, this time both working in the corporate espionage world. They each work for rival tycoons. Claire for Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson), Ray for Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti). Claire and Ray decide to play both sides in what they hope will be a very lucrative payday.
What follows throughout the film is a series of flashbacks slowly giving the audience little clues as to how deep the mystery and deception goes. The only certainty is Claire and Ray’s attraction for each other.
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen as Claire and Ray remind us why they’re not only talented actors, but movie stars. Owen, swaggers throughout the film James Bond like with as much charm and presence as Cary Grant at the top of his game. Roberts, with her usual radiant smile and personality, adds a cheeky sexiness to the role.
Seasoned character actors, Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti each add a subtle nuance to their comical performances. In the opening credit sequence, over James Newton Howard’s high voltage jazz score, Howard Tully (Wilkinson) and Richard Garsik(Giamatti) get into a slap fest setting the comic and fast paced tone of the film.
Howard’s original jazz score also creates such a snap, crackle and pop to each scene you can’t help enjoying the ride. And as much as the music will get your heart pumping, the cinematographer, Robert Elswit, cleverly uses the split screen along side the jazz score creating a lively, hip feel to the film.
As well as each of these elements come together, it’s really Tony Gilroy’s vision that shines on the screen. As the screenwriter of all three “Bourne” films, he’s proven he not only understands the spy genre, but has elevated the genre to a much more interesting and complex place. With his directorial debut, “Michael Clayton” he tackles the world of corporate creed and corruption. And finally, with “Duplicity,” Gilroy appears to becoming a writer/director with something truly to say.
Although“Duplicity” is basically a comedy, it takes place in a world of back-stabbing corporate tycoons, the sort of people who care more about the bottom line than if their mother lives or dies. And in our current corporate climate, what story can be more relevant than that? If you missed “Duplicity’s” original run, please go back and give it a try — you will not be disappointed.