Cast: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, Dan Daily; Director: Tony Gilroy; Producers: Laura Bickford, Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent; Screenwriter: Tony Gilroy; Music: James Newton Howard; Editor: John Gilroy; Genre: Drama/ Romance; Cinematography: Robert Elswit; Distributor: Universal Pictures; Location: several North America and Europe; Running Time: 125 min.;
Technical Assessment: 3
Moral Assessment: 2
CINEMA Rating: For mature viewers 18 and above
The film opens in slow motion as two corporate honchos brawl in the tarmac after they descend from their respective private jets with their staff watching in horror. Then we return to 2003, when smooth-talking M15 agent charmer Ray Koval (Clive Owen) meets sassy CIA operative Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) in a consulate party in Dubai. Instantly attracted, they begin flirting with each other until they share a passionate night. However, the next morning Claire drugs Ray and steals the Egyptian documents they were both assigned to look for. Fast forward 5 years after in the US, the two, this time working for the same multinational company as intelligence operatives, cross paths and are teamed together for an assignment much to Claire’s disgust. Or is it so? After a series of flashbacks and flash forwards, as the audience is taken to a jet setting tour around the world, we realize that Claire and Owen have been meeting for years and are now planning a scheme to double cross their employers, steal the secret formula and make a few millions before leaving the spy game. But first, they have to overcome their trust issue before learning to work together.
The biggest achievement of the movie is overcoming the difficulty of non-linear story telling which is both confusing and hard to follow while being clever and amusing. Duplicity relies on cerebral work instead of muscle power. Needless to say, the violence of the film is in the script and words rather than in actual fighting and blood shedding. The cinematography and production design are dramatic as they transform and gloss every single scene regardless if it is in an Italian hotel suite or dingy spy headquarters or the bland corporate office. Owen and Roberts deliver powerful performances but do not quite achieve an intense chemistry to make their long standing love affair believable. The witty complicated plot is washed down by a pathetic and weak ending. Over-all the movie is entertaining and worthwhile albeit a little problematical with the story telling.
Duplicity raises the issue of trust and loyalty. Self-interest and greed seem to be the main motivation of the characters that it becomes hard to have faith in the very person they love.
Again, pre-marital sex is tolerated and glamorized.
But the most disturbing issue with Duplicity is the glorification of crime and presentation of criminals as funny, charming, loveable characters you root for. As it lessens the impact of the misdeed, it may deliver the wrong message especially to young viewers.