When we first meet Claire Stenwick and Ray Koval (Roberts and Owen), they are drinking it up in Dubai at the US consulate. She isn't the least bit interested in him and he is working her as hard as he can. I didn't hear it but he must have said the right thing at some point because they end up in bed together. Of course, she was only sleeping with him so that she could drug him and steal some super secret international spy stuff. And naturally, he put aside all of his super secret spy training and allowed himself to be taken in by her beauty. It is a fleeting moment with very little chemistry or connection but this is supposed to be the instance that binds the two in a lust that is supposed to span years and lead to what we're told is true love. They reconnect years later in some other exotic shooting location and concoct a plan to dupe two high profile rival corporations and make off with millions of dollars that will allow them to bask in exorbitantly rich bliss for the rest of their lives. It's a fine plan but I wasn't buying anything.
Gilroy's last directorial effort was his first. MICHAEL CLAYTON earned him respect from critics and contemporaries alike as the film went on to earn a number of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Gilroy himself. Gilroy enlisted some of the same players he worked with last time out, including composer, James Newton Howard, cinematographer, Robert Elswit and even cast member, Tom Wilkinson, rejoins the gang as the head of one of these soon-to-be-conned corporations. How is it then that when all these folks got together last time, they achieved such subtle perfection while this time, Howard sounds as though he were ripping off the OCEAN'S 11 through 13 scores and Elswit is practically washed out? (Wilkinson is still great as he can do very little wrong in my book.) Perhaps the blame can be placed on Gilroy's most tired screenplay in years. By keeping corporate espionage grounded in reality last time out, he made it fascinating and relatable. By infusing it with Hollywood convention, the whole game was played out before it even began.
DUPLICITY boils down to very little more than two pretty people running games on each other and anyone else they can. The trouble is that the games they're running are amusing only to them and entirely transparent to the rest of us. The truly duplicitous nature of DUPLICITY it would seem is just that everyone on that side of the screen thinks they are so much funnier, so much sneakier and so much more dubious than what we on this side of the screen actually see. Once again, the cool kids are too ignorant to notice that they are nowhere near as cool as they think they are.