VIDEO: The trailer for Duplicity
Like Steven Soderbergh in his Oceans series, Tony Gilroy seems to have decided to take a break from making serious movies like 2007's Oscar-nominated Michael Clayton and instead lighten up with a frothy heist film involving multiple deceits, triple- and quadruple-crosses, luxury settings, techy jargon, a goofy supporting cast, high stakes (millions of dollars) with no consequences (floor wax and shampoos instead of carcinogenic, environment-devastating poisons), and Julia Roberts. Gilroy also throws in a reverse chronology taking place in posh foreign locations (and Cleveland!) so as to mark the film as his own and conceal any narrative weaknesses.
Such an elaborate contrivance needs the frisson of two actors with sizzling chemistry — charismatic scene stealers with the kind of passion and attraction that ignite the screen. Duplicity boasts such a pair. Unfortunately, they are Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti; they play the CEOs of rival corporations, and early on they demonstrate just how sensual two jowly, saliva-spewing mastodons in Italian suits look when they're whaling on each other in slow motion.
So much for the sexy stuff. Then there's Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. They play Claire and Ray, corporate spies hired by the two CEOs in their espionage war, a pair who are in cahoots with each other. Or are they? Sorry, I must have nodded off. At any rate, Roberts's emotional range stretches from bored annoyance to icy annoyance. Owen, on the other hand, dons a pair of horn-rimmed glasses and evokes Cary Grant as he flirts and has fun. This scene, however, is not with Roberts but with a frumpy corporate executive whom he seduces to obtain information.
Let's just say that Gilroy is no Ernst Lubitsch when it comes to sophisticated, saucy effervescence. Or a Hitchcock, either, since his thrilling climax involves a search for a Xerox machine. Let's hopes he's gotten Duplicity out of his system and will once again have Wilkinson barking out lines like "I am Shiva, the God of Death!" instead of pruning a bonsai tree.