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Duplicity (2009)

Outwit. Outspy. Outsmart. Outplay. Then get out.

Rating: 7/10

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

From the get-go, this film is not what it seems or what you would expect from director/ screenwriter Tony Gilroy. He takes a try at a spy/romantic action movie and comes up with something that is classic and feels a bit like a Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy flick. The setup is good, and even with a storyline that’s a little drawn out at times, it has enough wit to keep any fan of romantic comedy entertained.

Two of the best spies, one from CIA and the other from MI6, come head to head to outwit and con their way into an early retirement by stealing a new formula from two rival corporations. The only catch is Roy Koval (Clive Owen), a former MI6 agent, must learn to trust/love an ex-CIA agent Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) long enough to pull off the con of their lives.

First the bad. Paul Giamatti’s acting skills go severely unused here. He is great in every scene, but he only has a few lines/scenes throughout the entire span of the film; it just leaves you wanting more. Also, the film has a runtime of 125 minutes, which after watching, gives you the feeling that the director just didn’t want to cut anything from it. And now the good—Julia Roberts and Clive Owen sell the movie with their chemistry and wit, and they come off as a couple who have both known each other for years and can literally hear what the other is thinking. With each paranoid/friction-filled fight, their witty banter makes a movie touted more as a spy flick into a snappy and intelligent espionage comedy of sorts. Its twists may give the film too much length, but you still keep watching to see how it turns out. This may seem a departure, at first, for director Tony Gilroy, whose work always seems to be of a heavier tone, as seen in his recent films (Michael Clayton; the Bourne series); these movies again have a serious, somewhat dark feel to them, but overall, have a human condition and feeling built in that is slowly revealed throughout the movie, as it is here, where you may go in thinking you’re going to see a crime caper, but you leave having gotten involved with two very intriguing characters who just happen to be involved in some interesting shenanigans.

After all is said, the film is worth the watch, and it’s too bad that for whatever reason, it didn’t get the attention it deserved. The action is well-paced in more areas than it is flawed, and whatever lulls there are are made up for by its quick-witted stars.

It's Got: Great banter, the best slow-mo opening credits fight scene EVER

It Needs: More Giamatti, better word-of-mouth, an audience that can keep up

DVD Extras Commentary from Writer and Director Tony Gilroy and Editor and Co-Producer John Gilroy DVD Extras Rating: 4/10


More character-driven spy romantic comedy than espionage movie, this film harkens back to the classic days of the “star” film, and for the witty back and forth alone, this is better than you may have heard.