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If there is such a thing like a film to smart to enjoy 'Duplicity'
written and directed by Tony Gilroy would certainly qualify. It is not
that scriptwriter Gilroy misses smart stories in his CV - he wrote the
'Bourne' series (based on Robert Ludlum's novels), 'Proof of Life' and
'Devil's Advocate'each of them smart. The problem with Duplicity is
that he did not find a better director than Tony Gilroy to direct a
script which has many surprises, hidden angles, flashbacks and twists
but too few of them are being turn into moments of good cinema suspense
Duplicity is the story of two ex-spies (one CIA - Julia Roberts, one MI-6 Clive Owen) who go private and plan a big scam by getting hired by two competing moguls in the shampoo industry. In a world where eavesdropping is the rule, where nobody trusts anybody, where every word hides a lie which hides an even bigger lie being a couple of spies and lovers means first of all trusting each other? Is trust possible? this is the permanent question and the answer is so many times no that when time comes to answer yes the answer is simply not credible.
The two lead actors create chemistry and they cannot act bad, but chemistry and good acting is not enough, especially as both Roberts and Owen look or are made to look in this film a little bit beyond the peaks of their respective sex-appeals. This may be intentional, as even sexy spies start getting old at some point, and this is a credible situation of life, but simply does not fit the profile of an action movie. On the other side the twists and layers and flashbacks in time are so many and so often that at some point in time I lost interest in watching the action, and believe me, this seldom happens to me in an action movie. Duplicity simply tries to hard to be smart, and the style of director Gilroy does not make justice to the scriptwriter Gilroy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a film that is desperately trying to sound clever.
Unfortunately it expends so much effort on this, not well I might add,
that it wastes a better than expected, if not stellar, turn from both
A theme throughout the film is that things a made more complicated than they need to be, both for the audience and characters. In fact this film identifies something, that in my mind, is more pernicious than a regular plot hole, a total lack of clarity in the motives of the characters. Some logistical oversight I can forgive, but if a filmmaker cannot reveal why a character is engaged in all these extra complicated plot points the film is lost.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON
As a counter example take memento by Christopher nolan. Very complex plot vs story film told through flashbacks, yet we understand why everyone does what they do: memory loss and deception. There is value in piecing it together to show how the story unfolds. Duplicity uses flashbacks, is not even as complex, but doesn't provide reasons for it. Both leads 'deceive' the intelligence teams through planned and scripted encounters, exotic rendezvous etc. but none of it is necessary and so doesn't make sense. This all plods on for a while making sense even if often unnecessary until at the end we are given a clanger, which I'm still surprised others don't note. It is revealed Tom wilkinsons character planned to find two fraudsters (Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, not just Paul giamatti) all along. I find myself screaming WHY?! He doesn't need to do this, doesn't know them, has a genuine goal of duping giamatti (which he does: this bit is fine) yet risks his entire plan by wasting time making things unnecessarily complicated. Before anyone says hes punishing them: no. He constructs the crime they commit before they know about it: essentially entrapment.. The real stinker is that to dupe the two he needs precisely the same resources (a mole in equistrom) to dupe giamatti so why does he deliberately seek out two (unknown to him fraudsters). Whilst not being a plot hole per se it makes no sense for him to do this: there is no motive at all. It is simply a cheap plot trick. You might as well take any film and change the ending by cutting to a character having masterminded every turn in the plot. It's not hard to do UNLESS you give them a believable motive throughout. This film does not have it and so it resorts to the intellectual equivalent of '...but it was all a dream'.
DUPLICITY, by writer/director Tony Gilroy , of the BOURNE trilogy and
MICHAEL CLAYTON fame, takes your standard heist plot and throws in
elements of the perfect con game playing out a mutual mistrust that
exists on every level from the main star pairing of Clive Owen and
Julia Roberts to the always-outstanding supporting cast members of Tom
Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti, where the only constant is that smart is
Gilroy plays fast and loose with a series of flashbacks and slick cuts reminiscent of a Soderberg Ocean's film that introduce Owen and Roberts' characters, professional liars that seemingly not only mistrust each other, but their employers as well. Or do they? The two engage not only in a game of cat-and-mouse in finding the secrets of a frozen pizza recipe - or is that the cure of male pattern baldness? but also play out as lovers trading quips between kisses.
Dialogue and story both are crafted in a way to include the viewer into secrets shared among the parties as well as having key data excluded for the film's big reveal. In the meantime, the banter, equally subtle and obvious, between the corporate spies keeps the characters interesting. Gilroy utilizes his knowledge of spy-thrillers and works it in, almost with a comical wink, to the banality of everyday living. As such, having Claire Stenwick bat her eyelashes in a board room wearing a St. John power suit is a compromisingly-believable fantasy than Jason Bourne driving a Mini Cooper backwards on the Bahnhofplatz in Zurich.
Fun, hip and full of those falsehoods that make great films, DUPLICITY may not steal away the spy-grifter film genre, but should have enough lire in its bank account for a long-term Roman holiday legacy.
Despite the not too high rating I was really trying to really love this movie. I must say it was hard going. Mixed feelings about watching it really. By all means do see it, I did for a part enjoy the movie as it's not bad, it's just not as brilliant as you would hope for. The acting is pretty good. Just look at the cast, they're all professionals. As to the characters, mmmm, they don't really seem to develop a lot, bit too shallow. Is it a thriller, not to sure about that, the element of excitement is missing. Not that it's very predictable but it's not shivering good either. Is it a comedy, no, definitely not, but it has some humor in it. Action movie, thank god no. Mixed feelings, not just about watching it, but about the movie as a whole. I found it confusing to such a level that it misses the thriller bit in it due to that. Again, I would recommend seeing it, it's a good movie, but, just don't get your hopes up too much on a thrilling adventure, it's just not that.
"Duplicity" is a film about spies, although not about secret agents in
the sense that devotees of Ian Fleming or John Le Carré would
understand the term. Admittedly, the two main characters, Ray Koval and
Claire Stenwick, start off working for MI6 and the CIA respectively,
but they soon abandon their careers for the much more lucrative world
of industrial espionage.
The plot centres upon the rivalry between two multinational companies, Burkett & Randle and Equikrom. Ray works for Equikrom; Claire works for Burkett & Randle in their corporate security department. Or at least she ostensibly does. In reality, she is a corporate spy employed by Equikrom to steal Burkett & Randle's trade secrets, especially details of a highly secret new product they are developing, and Ray is her handler.
Or is the true position even more complex than that? As its title might suggest, "Duplicity" is the sort of film where the audience are, for virtually its whole length, left in the dark as to what the true position is, as to who is trying to double-cross whom and who can trust whom. It gradually emerges that Ray and Claire are lovers, who are conspiring together to cheat both companies and sell the secret to the highest bidder. Or are they .? As is common in films of this nature, twist follows twist; there is a neat twist at the end whereby Dick Garsik, the corrupt, amoral Chief Executive of Equikrom is hoist with his own petard.
There is, however, to be no similar come-uppance for the equally amoral Ray and Claire. The film is sometimes described as a romantic comedy, but the emphasis is less on romance than on the characters' complicated scheming. It is essentially a disguised heist movie, with the heist movie's typically relaxed attitude towards those who illegally or dishonestly enrich themselves at others' expense. Theft and fraud are not wrong, provided that the thieves or fraudsters are cool and attractive, that their crimes are carried out with daring, style and panache and that their victims are guilty of some crime, if only of the crime of not being cool and attractive themselves. Julia Roberts, who stars as Claire here, also starred in the "Ocean's" franchise, which was based around a similarly dubious code of ethics. Other recent examples include "Entrapment" and the remake of "The Italian Job"; there appears to be a belief among Hollywood scriptwriters that women as attractive as Roberts, Catherine Zeta Jones and Charlize Theron are, or should be, exempt from the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Steal".
This is a slick, glossy piece of film-making, but it suffers from two defects. We are unable to identify with its hero and heroine for two reasons. The first is that their lack of moral scruples makes them inherently unsympathetic. The second was encapsulated by Roger Ebert in his review of the film. Writing of the frequent plot twists, he said "'Duplicity' is entertaining, but the complexities of its plot keep it from being really involving: When nothing is as it seems, why care?" It is certainly not the only film to suffer from these defects- indeed, an increasing number of films in recent years, the "Ocean's" films being good examples, have also been made in the same style, weaving labyrinthine and less than plausible plots around amoral and less than admirable characters. Watching "Duplicity" I frequently found myself asking "Why care?" 5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We first watched this film when it was first released. Not having
enjoyed it in that occasion, we took a chance when a friend insisted in
giving us his DVD to give it another try. Well, our first impression is
still correct. "Duplicity", written and directed by Tony Gilroy, the
adapter of the Bourne saga, had done much better with "Michael
Clayton", which is a better film than this one will ever be.
Part of the problem seems to be the confusing screenplay that asks the viewer to keep going backward in time to explain the situation at hand. Claire Stenwick and Roy Koval, two former spies, are fun to watch in their machinations to steal a big industrial secret about a product that will revolutionize life for a lot of people. Mr. Gilroy uses a technique that proves to be a false premise every time Claire and Roy meet they pretend not to know one another when in reality they have known each other intimately since the first time they met.
The film is an obvious vehicle for the two stars, whose previous work in "Closer" did not work out too well. The best thing in the film is the balletic sequence in which Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson are seen fighting each other in slow motion. These two top executives, so different in their approach to protect the product, are ruthless individuals who will stop at nothing when it comes to getting what they want no matter at what cost and whose lives they destroy in order to get it. This is a sad commentary about these types of predators that have been instrumental in ruining companies as well as lives of the ones that have worked all their lives in the industries, or businesses they are paid immoral wages to lead.
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are good in the way they approach their characters of Claire and Roy. Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti, as well as Kathleen Chalfant, and the amazing Carrie Preston, steal the film from the stars every time they are around. There are good supporting playing by Denis O'Hare, Wayne Duvall, Thom McCarthy, among the large cast.
"Duplicity" is like a Sidney Sheldon novel where luxury and designer brands play heavily into the action. This film is also a travelogue with the multiple sets in scenic parts of the world, captured in all its splendor by cinematographer Robert Elswit. In fact, some of the background, at times, is more interesting to watch, perhaps to distract the viewer into thinking it is a better film than it is. One can only hope Mr. Gilroy's next time out will be better.
The main reason I chose Duplicity from the DVD store was that, it was a
Tony Gilroy creation. The fact that he had been the writer for some
great works and the director of Michael Clayton gave me an impression
that he was a person who knew what he was doing. Well to be a painfully
straightforward, with duplicity, Mr Gilroy proved me wrong. The only
thing which could be identified clearly was that duplicity was
originally supposed to be an espionage thriller with some great twists
in the story and give the viewers and edge of the seat experience. In
fact, the movie does satisfy the above criterion but with a very
Duplicity, starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts is yet another addition to the endless collection of espionage and spy game thriller movies produced in Hollywood. The movie, primarily set in New York narrates the story of how two super cool spies, Ray Koval(Clive Owen) and Claire Stenwick(Julia Roberts) get together and plan to trick a multinational company of 40 million dollars. Initially the movie starts off quite impressively with the distinctly funny scenes during the opening credits and gives us the vague feel of Guy Ritchie style opening. Further into the story, you can find ill placed flashback scenes which might be a bit bothering but does not harm the present time. The non linear time frame really did not bother me though and the witty one liners and intelligent dialogues give a supporting hand to the movie. The music too provided a good deal of back up and lead pair did justice to their roles even though i found the bossing around of Claire and giving instructions to Ray very annoying. Some of the dire facts of the movie were the less screen space for Tom Wilkinson and the type of acting from Paul Giamatti which proved to be redundant throughout. But the part which troubled me the most was the final scene were the twist is not near as expected and not near as considerable. Duplicity is definitely a onetime watch and a decent entertainer but an easily forgettable movie which is not worthy of an in depth analysis.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is not enough to have two good actors to have a good film. The film
is about industrial spying mixed up with some CIA and maybe some more.
The spying is a total failure, since the good spies are lured into
believing a fake formula was the real one, because they knew nothing
about what they were looking for. A spy should maybe have gone to
school first to learn how to read some chemical formulas when they have
to steal one particular formula, otherwise any scribbling would do. And
it does. In other words and in the end I feel as if that film was at
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
"Duplicity" has one of those twisty-turny,
two-somersaults-with-a-triple-backflip screenplays that demand such
undivided attention from the viewer that a single momentary lapse in
concentration can prove fatal to understanding the rest of the movie.
Luckily, screenwriter Tony Gilroy ("Michael Clayton"), in a kind of
homage to such romantic comedy puzzlers as "Charade" and "Gambit," is
able to bring most of the disparate narrative strands together into a
reasonably coherent whole for the finale, though there are some in the
audience, I'm sure, who may not consider the prize worth all the mental
effort required to claim it in the end.
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play two undercover agents who may or may not know one another, who may or may not be acting as spies for rival pharmaceutical firms, and who may or may not be moles in the companies for whom they're currently working. And if you're confused by that admittedly cryptic synopsis, well, you ain't seen nothing' yet!
In Roberts and Owen, the movie does possess the larger-than-life star-power a film like this one needs to be fully engaging. And Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson bring great energy and personality to the two maniacal CEOs who are - sometimes quite literally - at each others' throats throughout the course of the picture.
Slickly directed by Gilroy, "Duplicity" is a generally well-made, visually appealing four-course entertainment - one that is easily consumed, then just as easily forgotten.
Even in a film where secrecy and espionage are at the center, it is an obligation of the screenwriter and the director to play fair. That means, even if we are misled, we understand what is going on. In a movie like Charade, we ignore the real threat and follow the wrong people, but the events role on and we understand them. Two things are hard to swallow. First of all, what the hell are they trying to do? Am I so dense I can't understand it. Secondly, the ongoing relationship between the two principle characters. How are they working together; are they working together; are they running their own operation? When we get to the conclusion (which I won't spoil) we have a really bad taste in our mouths, and it isn't bad Champagne. The romance doesn't even seem real. There is little spark that I can see, but they are like a couple of rabbits in mating season, ignoring whatever they are supposed to be doing to get together. Forget this one.
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