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</script></div>{/googleAds}There's a lot of promise in a film that features a veteran actress, a hot leading man, one of the industry's up-and-coming filmmakers, and a stable of Hollywood stalwarts who come together on a script that borrows elements of the vintage screwball comedy and the plot reversals of a classic caper film. But a few significant storytelling mistakes not only keep Tony Gilroy's Duplicity from reaching full potential, but also make watching it an exercise in sheer frustration.

With his directorial debut, Michael Clayton, Gilroy masterfully guided us through a complex and sometimes confusing plot of corporate espionage and white-collar malfeasance. Even though we weren't always able to completely follow along, we were made to feel willing to go along on the journey, and we always found a bit of comfort in the characters... especially Clooney's titular Clayton and all he represented. But in Duplicity, Gilroy not only loses control of the confusing web of details, time shifts, and double-crosses, he also fails to realize that the rug can only be pulled out from beneath the viewer so many times, before it becomes tiresome and onerous. After the third or fourth or fifth double-cross, I began to wonder if anything was actually as it seemed. Is anybody really who they say they are? Does anyone really love whom they say they love? Is this really a movie? Is someone about to remove a mask and blame the whole thing on those meddling kids? Certainly, twists and turns can be an enjoyable part of a story, but we need something, anything, to trust.

DuplicityIn the beginning of the film, Ray Koval (Clive Owen) and Claire Stenwick Julia Roberts) end up in bed at a Fourth of July party at the American consulate in Dubai, in 2003. Shortly thereafter, Claire drugs his drink and steals some top-secret papers from his room. We soon learn they're both in the spy business... he's an MI6 agent, she works for the CIA.

A few timeline shifts later, the pair meet again on the streets of Manhattan, but this time they're surprised to learn they're on the same side... working as undercover private sector spooks for a major skin care outfit. Or, they may be double agents. Who knows?

After a few more timeline shifts, we learn that Claire and Ray had actually met on several occasions in many locales across the globe throughout the years. They've since devised a scheme against their employers that is expected to land them a cool $40 million retirement nest egg. Seems a major competitor is in final stages of development of a blockbuster new product certain to tip the market for any patent holder.

As the smart, twisty, turny caper film Gilroy wants it to be, Duplicity falls miserably short. His fractured narrative serves no useful purpose and just comes across as gimmicky and cheap. He expects the cons-within-a-con to be fun and playful, but instead they're just confusing, tiresome, and disingenuous. But as he demonstrated with Michael Clayton, Gilroy's strengths lie in his characters. Since they can never be trusted, we're not able to find much to grab onto in Claire and Ray, but the chemistry generated by Owen and Roberts is fascinating to watch and manages to catch some of the glamour from films of the past. Gilroy wanted the film to be a love story, of sorts, about Claire and Ray trying to decide if they're truly in love and whether, as spies, they can ever trust each other. I like that movie. But the other part of film the one that spends too much time on trickery, deceit, and deception lacks charm, likeability and a genuine sense of reality.

Component Grades
2 stars
1 Star
DVD Experience
1.5 stars

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.40:1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 HD Spanish: DTS 5.1 Surround French: DTS 5.1 Surround

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentary.


Commentary - Feature-length commentary track with writer/director Tony Gilroy and editor/co-producer John Gilroy.


  • None

Deleted Scenes - None

Previews - No theatrical trailer included

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging