“Duplicity” is a good looking movie, with good looking leads, that adds up to a good yawn after sitting around for bored for two plus hours. The film begins in the present and flashes back over five years to the current event. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen star as Ray Koval and Claire Stenwick, former CIA and MI6 spies who have left the spy game for the world of corporate espionage. The film costars Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti as rival tycoons battling it out for the untold riches a secret beauty formula has for the first to market it. Koval and Stenwick are supposedly manipulating both sides to maximize their profit. But are they in it together, in love, or just double crossing each other for all the money. Do we even care about these characters enough to worry about their machinations? I certainly didn’t!
Beyond the duplicity that is the title and theme of this film, the romance between the leads must work. It doesn’t. It fizzles. And even though Roberts and Owens are great actors, they don’t add up to much here. I think the filmmakers were banking on the pair, who are good friends publicly, and did make “Closer” together, to have good screen chemistry. They didn’t in Closer and they definitely don’t here. It’s almost as if they’re trying to one up each other with charm and beauty in every scene. That’s not how it works in a romance. Someone has to be more charming, and the other person has to be more beautiful. You cannot have two lead dancers in a waltz.
Another disappointment in Duplicity is the waste of Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti. Here are two of the finest character actors around, and they’re simply getting run through the paces. This is all very surprising coming from writer/director Tony Gilroy. He’s made a career of writing crisp, clever films (Bourne series, Michael Clayton). Maybe he was overpowered by his A-list leads and was afraid to dial back a few key moments? Regardless, the acting talent in the film does not make it good and that’s usually the fault of the director.
Duplicity ends up a bore, but there is hope for its director. Gilroy has a good eye in his second directorial effort; “Michael Clayton” is first film. He’s a fantastic writer, so this is just a mere stumble. He may want to try a smaller film, with lesser known talent for his next project. I have a feeling we may get a better product than this vanity piece for Roberts and Owen.