Sunday, March 22, 2009

REVIEW: Duplicity

Sometimes, movies go overlooked. Two years ago, there was a little film, starring big star George Clooney, called Michael Clayton. It was a stunning little thriller, with great performances, and truly masterful writing and direction. Now, the filmmaker behind this solid little film, is also the man at the helm of Duplicity, and that man is Tony Gilroy. Previously writing for the Bourne films, Gilroy has now made a name for himself as a director, and this is his second theatrical release. Will it be a second notch on his belt? Or throw away cinema like the rest of what is currently out?

Duplicity is a story about two corporate spies (Owen and Roberts) who team up to manipulate a corporate race to corner the market on a medical innovation that will reap huge profits and enable them to lead an extravagant lifestyle together. CIA officer Claire Stenwick (Roberts) and MI6 agent Ray Koval (Owen) have gotten out of the world of government intelligence to cash in on the highly profitable cold war raging between two rival corporations all to secure the formula for a product that will bring a fortune to the company that patents it first.

Now, to start of talking about Duplicity, you have to take on the two monster stars that are at the head of the film. It stars Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, in their first pairing since the brilliant film, Closer, and the work they did there is continued here, just not shoot-yourself-in-the-face depressing. They are both great here, especially Owen, who is the right mixture of flawed and charming, and is his screw you to the people that chose Daniel Craig as Mr. Bond. Roberts is great, and the interchanges between Owen and her are really great.

The supporting cast is also really top notch here. Koval and Stenwick are under the control of two CEOs, Howard Tully and Dick Garsik, played by Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti, and played quite well. Giamati plays a paranoid CEO and I couldn't see anyone play it better. Wilkinson may even be better as the machismo, confident, super businessman, and is almost what his character in Clayton was, pre freak-out.

Recently, there was a New York Times profile on Tony Gilroy. Starting as a writer, most famously for the Bourne films (he will NOT be a part of the 4th, currently in production), Gilroy made his directorial debut with Michael Clayton, and with that films 7 Oscar nods, was thrust straight into the limelight. While Duplicity is a starkly different film, his dialogue, which is so rich and full of language, fits perfectly in this world. The direction is a little bland, but still really fun to watch, and the cinematography by Robert Elswitt is great.

The final thing, the score to this film, done by Dark Knight co-scorer James Newton Howard, is perfect for this film. It's very jazz heavy, extremely percussive, and where some of the plot points sort of slow this awkwardly paced film down, the score comes in and sweeps it back out of the molasses.

The most comparable film to Duplicity is a film from a few years back, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Both feature big stars, romance, and spies, yet where that film delves in the realm of fun, yet cliche action, this strives for a little bit more. It's a strong spy film, yet there is not a single gun drawn. It features a believable romance, and strong performances, as did Smith, yet it has something that film didn't. A brain. The plot is thick, a little to much, but thick, and instead of sticking to lame action set pieces, it takes the fun elements of Smith, and gives it back its brain.

That said, the film is flawed.

The biggest problem with this film is at it's core. The length of this film is really awkward. Clocking in at just over 2 hours, the time itself isn't the problem, it's the films pace. The plot goes between the present day and when the two spies first met, and the shifts from each time period were not really well done. The score kept everything moving, but I found myself checking my phone near the end of the film. It may be a minor quibble to some, but for a film that doesn't have any real action to it, the pace is at the forefront, and nearing the end of the film, it just felt a little haphazard.

That all said, the film is insanely fun, and in a weekend that has a Nic Cage flick and another comedy, please, do yourself a favor, check out Duplicity.


Go see something good!

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