Friday, August 7, 2009

Duplicity (2009) 5.5/10


Two secret agents team up to pull the ultimate con job on two major corporations in order to grab one big final payday.

Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) takes the helm once more following his debatably popular 2007 film Michael Clayton. This time Gilroy tackles a romantic comedy thriller centering on the life of two agents, one CIA (Julia Roberts), and the other MI6 (Clive Owen). The film is told quasi-linear beginning with the initial meeting of these two, the initial betrayal, and the jump forward to modern day with flash backs to their setting up of the heist and growing romance. On the whole Duplicity is a film that just tries too hard to be too much, ultimately struggling to keep its head above water in the face of its own story.

In terms of style Gilroy brings about a quick paced, vibrant movement, every step is quick, important, and to the point. There's seldom a shot of people strolling or taking their time, no, these characters are all in a hurry and they're going to get where they're going. Visually though Gilroy borrows from the same bag Ang Lee did for his 2003 Hulk and the recent Ocean films. Multi-screen shots, several of which showing absolutely nothing, all meant to present a comic book like feel... instead they just frustrate as you're being forced to find just which of the screens have something pertinent going on.

Gilroy is able to support his directing inexperience with fun, catchy, writing that brings out the best in our two central characters. This writing is supported by the fact that Roberts and Owens have great on screen chemistry, really worthy of another film attempt or two. Roberts and Owens recieve good, but well underused, support from Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti, not to mention a few other seasoned vets. The characters are really where Duplicity hits its mark. For all its twists and turns, and attempts at confusing the audiance, the characters are straight forward, whimsically goofy, and at the same time sincere and easy to relate too. The R+O team are really what this film is all about, and at the same time the movies sole saving grace.

The story could best be described as kind of funny, kind of thrilling, kind of unique, but fails to seperate itself from genre standards, or bring about anything that rises above them. Take for example Scott's 2003 Matchstick Men which well balanced character, cons, and story and was able to break the genre mold in a very Leon setup. Duplicity tries to cut from the same mold, and at times manages to do so nicely, but struggles to really find its footing... something very important to films with an over abundance of twists.

Even for all its story flaws there's something very genuine and great about Roberts and Owens, something I'd watch again just to try and figure it out. The two feed off each other very well, and in return you're provided with a film that is mediocre to the core... and still worth a view if you got the time.

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