Duplicity is the 2009 film written and directed by Tony Gilroy. It stars Clive Owen and Julia Roberts as two former intelligence agents who decide to go into the private sector and become corporate spies. As the title implies, the movie is all about people not trusting one another and scheming with each other. The narrative is a marriage of a rom-com and spy thriller. Although there are definitely likable moments it never feels like the movie hits a stride in either genre.
The way the story is told it always leaves you feeling like you are playing catch up. I got the feeling that this is done on purpose in order to put the audience on edge just as the characters on screen are always on edge trying to figure things out. We start off with a short scene that took place five years ago and then jump to a credit scene that only makes sense once you're introduced to the characters a little later in the film. We then land in present day New York City. As the events unfold in the present we keep taking breaks to jump back in time to events that happened in the five year gap. It then all comes together in a very clever finale.
The general thrust of the tale is the relationship between Ray Koval and Claire Stenwick played by Clive Owen and Julia Roberts respectively. They are attracted to one another but because of their occupation have a hard time trusting each other. Unfortunately, I found myself less invested in them then I wanted to be for the first two-thirds of the film. This may have been due to the timeline jumping around and a general lack of back story. Regardless, it was hard for me to feel much of a connection at first.
For the spy movie side of the film there are two competing companies steeped in corporate rivalry and deceit. One of which is about to announce a top-secret breakthrough in their product line that the other one is desperate to steal. This was wrapped up in a rather smart and unexpected way. Twist and turns as well as double crosses abound throughout the plot to keep things interesting.
The final twenty minutes or so of this feature felt the strongest. But you had to kind of work a little to get there. As the credits rolled I felt rather satisfied but it wasn’t a ride I just had to go on again. This may have been due to the confusion at the beginning and the fact that the main characters weren’t compelling enough for most of the flick. However, fans of spy films may appreciate a look into the corporate espionage world and rom-com lovers looking for a twist on the old formula might find this a nice experiment.
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