Duplicity is a refreshing movie for the mere fact that it has been too long since a classic romantic caper has been released by Hollywood. It is the kind of movie Hollywood does best: it pairs two big stars in a workable story against stylish backdrops and lets you forget about the everyday outside the movie theater. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
While Duplicity isn't a classic romantic caper, say like Charade, Duplicity does win you over due to the sheer chemistry between Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. The pair have a natural rapport that crackles throughout the film whether their fighting or scheming; their bickering banter is smart and keeps you guessing until the end.
The real revelation of Duplicity is Clive Owen. Sure, he's been a strong leading man for the better part of the decade, but his roles tend to be more solemn, tortured and joyless. In Duplicity, his turn as Ray, an ex-MI-6 agent looking to settle a score and make it rich, certainly has an edge, but Owen finally gets to be charming. Owen's Ray is a light and likeable sly dog. That's a new role for Owen, and it fits him perfectly.
Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giammatti join in Duplicity as heads of competing corporations who hate each other with a passion. Their acrimony is delightfully demonstrated in the film's opening sequence.
Above all else, Duplicity is stylish. The story begins (too briefly) in Dubai, and proceeds to whisk the audience on a whirlwind jaunt around the globe to beautiful locales including the Caribbean, Miami, Rome and New York. Gilroy, meticulous in creating knowable settings as he did in Michael Clayton, is at the top of his game in Duplicity. Gilroy creates a stunning world populated by titans of industry, corporate espionage and paranoia all motivated by ego and the allure of a glamorous life.
While Duplicity sweeps you away easily with the good looking cast, strong supporting players and jet set beautiful locations, the film would have worked better had it stayed on task. Eventually, and it's only a minor quibble, Duplicity becomes bogged down under the machinations of its own story. It begins to get too serious. And, yes, caper films do have that element of danger and surprise. However, Duplicity sets itself up so substantially different from the beginning that the tension that comes toward the end doesn't feel quite right. Like I said, it was only a minor quibble, but one that frustrates expectations and, ultimately, keeps Duplicity from hitting the highest notes it could have reached.
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