- Clive Owen as Ray Koval
- Julia Roberts as Claire Stenwick
- Tom Wilkinson as Howard Tully
- Paul Giamatti as Dick Garsik
- Denis O’Hare as Duke Monahan
A devilish romantic spy caper, Duplicity is bolstered by the star appeal of Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. And while enjoyable and witty, it become too convoluted and complex for its own good, that seriously leaved you feeling a bit duped by the end. Still it does have a lot to be enjoyed, it just thinks it’s cleverer than it is.
Ray Koval and Claire Stenwick are both former agents; him for MI6 and her for the CIA. They now work as corporate spies for two rival companies, headed by the smart Howard Tully and the over exaggerated Dick Garsik who are constantly in competition and trying to get one up on the other. The thing is that Ray and Claire both have a past together romantically, as we see in flashback when their cases have crossed over the years. Yet both of them have a mutual distrust for one another because of the spy business and the playing of each other during these various encounters around the globe. Now, they both have a plan to con their respective companies for some major new product that could be super lucrative for each of them. This con that they plan to pull is extremely complex and tense as it could go very wrong if someone is caught. But with unease over trust and double crosses along the way in this dangerous game, who is playing who and will Ray and Claire’s personal feelings of sparky romance get in the way of the job in hand?
Now it must be said that Tony Gilroy contributes stylish direction Duplicity. Through split screens and visuals, he crafts an atmosphere laced with deception and humour. There is a lightness to his direction that ties in with the caper aspects of the tale. His script is slickly written and contains many a great scene of romantic banter and innuendo along the way. The wit is a clear highlight of the movie as it crackles between Ray and Claire whose relationship is mutually distrustful and doubting. Though I’m a big fan of twists, Duplicity ultimately goes overboard with them. Yes some of them come off as effective, but there really wasn’t any need for so many as it causes the film to feel cluttered. What should have really been a breezy film with a couple of double crosses becomes something of a muddled mess that could have been trimmed down. On a technical side, Duplicity at least looks great and has that old-fashioned feel of a caper from the 50’s or 60’s. A jazzy score, punctuated by exotic waves romance and cool suspense, manages to keep interest even when the story gets out of hand.
Despite the complicated nature of Duplicity, the cast assembled shines and brings a sense of credibility to it. Clive Owen does the smooth-talking, handsome guy shtick very well while bringing dashes of dry humour to the character of Ray. The chemistry he shares with Julia Roberts is electric and filled with sexual tension as the two dance a tango of uncertainty and passion. Julia Roberts also walks away with a great performance as Claire, who is smart, efficient and can be very calculating when it comes to the business.Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti as feuding business heads have a clear hoot here and their distinguished presence is felt in the scenes in which they are present. The two guys are real gems of the supporting cast and their slow motion fight that covers the opening frames is comedic fare to say the very least. Denis O’Hare is on great form as another corporate spy involved with the dangerous game of cat and mouse at stake.
So it may be a slickly done spy film and boast some very engaging performances, I just wish that Duplicity hadn’t tried to be so overly clever because it really detracts from the good parts of the movie.