By Sandra Kraisirideja
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are in a new movie together that draws on the strength of their sexual chemistry by pitting them against each other in a high stakes game of corporate espionage.
“Duplicity,” a comedy written and directed by Tony Gilroy, revolves around an ex-CIA agent (Roberts) and an ex-MI6 agent (Owen) who concoct a scheme to steal corporate secrets from two of the largest conglomerates in the world. The cast also features Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti as the warring corporate CEOs who get played by Roberts and Owen.
When studios market a movie by focusing solely on the chemistry of the two leads, especially when there’s romance involved, it’s cause for alarm. However, there was a strong chance this latest collaboration between Roberts and Owen was going to be more than a silly romp with Gilroy’s script and direction as well as the addition of Wilkinson and Giamatti.
Unfortunately, Wilkinson and Giamatti are somewhat minor characters in the movie so their screen time is limited. Gilroy also doesn’t delve into why the two characters hate each other or what makes them tick. It speaks volumes about the ability of these two actors that their mere screen presence and affectations in performance speak volumes about who their characters are so it’s not important to go too deeply into their backgrounds.
Gilroy tackled a more serious side of corporate misdoings in his Oscar-nominated screenplay for “Michael Clayton.” In fact, “Duplicity” could be called Gilroy’s comedic take on corporations and the lengths they will go to to protect their research and patents.
Like he did in “Michael Clayton,” Gilroy plays around with the continuity of the storyline by jumping between the past and the present to explain the relationship between Roberts and Owen. It takes awhile to reveal the true motivations of the characters, which is only slightly annoying because it’s so enjoyable watching these two stars banter back and forth. There are some surprises in the movie and Gilroy does an adequate job keeping the audience guessing.
There are moments when the movie feels a bit like “Ocean’s Eleven,” including when the plot twist is revealed toward the end of the movie. “Duplicity” is a strong second effort from Gilroy, who made a smart move by releasing a light-hearted comedy to further showcase his talents as a writer and director.