Duplicity

2009-06-05 09:31
 

What it's about:

Ex-CIA agent Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) and former MI6 member Ray Koval (Clive Owen) embark on an elaborate mission of corporate espionage. Two rival CEOs (Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti) are battling for the top spot in their industry, and a top-secret new product will determine who wears the crown. But this isn’t just about business innovation and profit: Claire and Ray have a plan that would help them get the prized formula and walk away with millions.

What we thought of it:

Julia Roberts used to be the most bankable female star in Hollywood, and Clive Owen was once touted as the boy most likely to be Bond. Now - in this romance-cum-thriller - they both just seem a bit like yesterday's anti-heroes.

Duplicity begins promisingly, with a cocktail party seduction at an embassy, and Roberts swiping top secret documents from her sleeping and satisfied prey's bag. It begins with the hope that there'll be a gripping espionage-driven plot laced with lots of steamy, tense encounters and erotic betrayals.

You're basically hoping it'll be James Bond without the car chase budget but with better characters, or 24 with more bare skin, less Democratic Party propaganda and fewer torture scenes. Or maybe even a bit of True Romance without the exploitation?

Dream on, because Duplicity - although it sticks like latex skin to the topic the title promises - is a big budget, B-grade version of all its influences. The relationship is the focus of the story, and the conflicted couple spend many scenes in bed, but the supposedly key sexual tension is unconvincing (you could do better with your eyes closed), and neither of them get properly naked. The locations and hotel rooms and linen are lovely, but nothing to touch Casino Royale's when it comes to playing the trend towards lush old European settings.

The plot feels tedious and confusing rather than intriguing, with time switches complicating things to compensate for missing elements. The cheesy split screen technique used in 24, which uses four simultaneous shots to show what's happening before and after ad breaks, works wonderfully on TV and DVD but just looks tacky on a big screen, and is less exciting when there are only two scenes playing out at once. And the references to James Bond theme music in the soundtrack merely remind you of what this movie is definitely not.

And the characters? Well, it's hard to care about either of them. Barely humanised, under-developed and unpleasantly self-centred, they run around doing the obvious product placements as contracted (cellphones for both of them, Mac Fix for Julia Roberts) and saying their lines stylishly. But when the film reaches its climax, it's like "Was that it?"

Yes, it's another one of those "Fine for a rainy day/hangover" DVDs. 


Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. 24 meets a James Bond film, meets Mr and Mrs Smith... Was this thriller as breathtakingly sexy as it sounds?

What to read next: CLASSIC REVIEW: Pretty Woman

Movie Mogul 2009/05/29 10:31 AM
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Did you watch the pirated version of the film..you know the pirated version from Fordsburg??? Sheesh...u can put someone off by your amoebic mental analysis Go watch the movie guys..its Great...worth paying bucks for!
Thinus 2009/05/29 11:16 AM
@ Movie Mogul: more like Movie PR. You're selling something that frankly, is crap. Didn't like this one bit.
Greg W 2009/06/26 12:29 PM
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Good review, but I disagree with most of it. I enjoyed the film, thought there was definitely chemistry between Clive Owen and Julia Roberts - I reviewed it here: http://fridaynightfilms.iblog.co.za
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