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Duplicity movie poster

Duplicity Movie Review

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From the director of the Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton comes Duplicity, a witty romantic-comedy-espionage-thriller starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. Smart and fun, Duplicity works in a breezy, harmless kind of way, though those expecting the crispness, fluidity and entertainment value of Ocean's 11 may be disappointed.

Duplicity follows Ray Koval (Owen), an ex-MI6 agent who is now working counterintelligence for a private biotech company. This company has an unhealthy rivalry with its competitor and has infiltrated them with their own spy, former CIA agent Claire Stenwick (Roberts), who is trying to obtain the formula to a secret product that is about to be revealed. What neither company knows is that Ray and Claire actually know each other from several years earlier and are collaborating to steal the formula and sell it to a third party for a large sum of money.

In its advertising and its actual presentation, Duplicity looks and feels a lot like Ocean's 11, where the characters always talk with double meaning, the director works to keep the truth just out of the audience's reach and the screen highlights bright colors and beautiful scenery. "Trust no one" is the name of the game, though this is about as far from an X-Files movie as one can get.

The twist ending is both predictable and unpredictable, though I would assume that most would find that it falls into the latter category. I suspected the truth within the first few minutes of the story, but Gilroy does his best to keep his twist elusive and not explicitly obvious. Ultimately, the twist that caps everything off is a fun one and worth the wait.

But the wait is inconsistent. There are scenes that are clever, enjoyable and even funny, and then there are others that tend to draw on. Duplicity is never boring, but it edges on such an adjective a few times. Just like the ending, the mini-twists throughout the film are both predictable and unpredictable; Gilroy exposes several flashbacks to give more back story to what's going on, but many of these flashbacks are more important to further the relationship between Ray and Claire rather than to develop the plot. After a while, the flashbacks aren't very interesting at all, and seem like filler to expand the movie's running time.

Some of the exchanges between Ray and Claire are excellent and fun to watch, but most of these are early on in the film. Strangely, their most authentic scenes are the ones that are most fabricated; the later scenes, which exist to develop their relationship, aren't nearly as interesting, though people who haven't seen the previews are likely to enjoy them a bit more because they won't know the punch line is coming. Despite the inconsistencies in these scenes, Roberts and Owen share good chemistry, and it's fun watching a relationship unfold where both characters get nearly orgasmic over the fact that neither of them trust each other.

As for the acting, both Owen and Roberts are good, but Owen is better. Some people can't stand Owen for one reason or another, but I just don't understand their resentment; he's a charming, handsome and confident actor who is great in these kinds of roles. Roberts is fine, but does her best when playing off Owen. In supporting roles, Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti especially deliver great performances; their opening scene together - their only scene together - is priceless, though the scene's success is more thanks to Gilroy's direction than anything else.

The bottom line is that Duplicity is a fun little film, but it isn't as fun as most people will expect. Its comparison to Ocean's 11 is warranted, but it unfortunately doesn't come out on top. The movie relies a little too heavily on the twist ending and the chemistry between Owen and Roberts; a swifter pace and a shorter running time might have done wonders. As is, Duplicity will make a worthy rental, but isn't worth the full price of admission.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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