Film review by: Witney Seibold




            The cleverest thing about Tony Gilroy’s “Duplicity” is not it’s twisty, temporally unstable plot (though it is clever), nor is it the wicked borderline Lubitsch-ian romance between ex-MI-6 officer Ray Koval (Clive Owen), and ex-CIA spook Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) (though it features some scenes of terrific wickedness).


            No, the cleverest thing about “Duplicity” is its mere premise; You see, in an era where the economy is in the toilet, people are sneering at major corporate CEOs who are giving themselves millions-dollar bonuses while the rest of us flounder; in an era of Iraq wars and multiple overseas quagmires; in an era when the Cold War has long since ended, and governments are not so much interested in sending spies into slickly decorates War Rooms to wheedle out secrets of the Other Empire; what’s a spy to do?


            Well, go to where the money is, of course. All of the world’s most sensitive secrets, it would seem, now rest in the hands of enormous corporate entities who want to be the first to deliver to the world the newest wonderproduct. Billions of dollars are at stake with every corporate press conference, and, as we have learned during this depression, the world economy can indeed be at stake.




            I like that Gilroy was savvy enough to give us a spy thriller completely free of the usual Cold War trappings. And it was savvy of him to include the current corporate climate as a major story element. Even James Bond can seem a little dated in the modern world.


            The two warring corporations in “Duplicity” are represented by CEOs Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) and Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti). Ray has been hired by Garsik to spy on Tully. Claire has been hired by Tully to spy on Garsik. But she’s really a mole for Garsik. Tully has announced that he has a wonderproduct, but won’t tell anyone what it is. It’s all Ray and Claire can do to find out what it is. Thanks to the financial loophole of the overseas bank account, their job involves a lot of globetrotting. And, to complicate matters, Claire and Ray are secretly lovers, don’t trust one another, and are heading up their own complicated scheme to rip off the corporation whom they can rob the most readily.


A corporate meeting of minds.

A corporate meeting of minds.


            Gilroy – who wrote and directed  “Michael Clayton” last year, authored the successful “Bourne” films, and even had a hand in films like “The Devil’s Advocate” – is fond of difficult-to-follow plotting, and tricky non-linear doublebacks. If done poorly, these kind of plot tricks can be extremely aggravating, and can ruin an otherwise clever film (see “Domino” for some of this. Or maybe “Basic.” Yeah, I saw “Basic”). Luckily Gilroy, writing and directing for the second time, has a firm handle on his story and can tell it to us clearly with an amount of wit, and, thanks to his lead actors, no small amount of charm.


            The story becomes so complex at points that it’s hard to have fun, but these moments of chaos soon abate, and we’re left with a classy and clever spy entertainment.


Ms. Roberts, you're trying to seduce me.

Ms. Roberts, you're trying to seduce me.

Published in: on April 23, 2009 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://witneyman.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/duplicity/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: