Thursday, March 26, 2009
448 - Duplicity review
“Duplicity” manages the tricky feat of being simultaneously over and underwritten. Its protagonists are a couple of spies in love (Clive Owen and Julia Roberts) with plenty to talk about but nothing to say. They engage in schemes to net millions and talk about how much fun it is to have sex with one another, but there’s never any more purpose to it than there is to staring endlessly at the second hand of a clock.
Ray and Claire (Owen and Roberts) have quit their jobs at MI6 and the CIA and joined the corporate world, where the pay is better and the stakes are much, much lower. Their goal: get hired as security officers for competing mega-corporations, steal secrets, and sell them to other competitors in order to fund a vacation lifestyle.
Their plans are hindered by a notable lack of trust; their first meeting resulted in Ray drugged and Claire running off with his secret documents. But that was just business, nothing to get in the way of true love. Meanwhile, our enjoyment of the film is hindered by a lack of activity, by a dearth of flair, by a shortage of intrigue. It’s a comedy that’s not funny, a love story with no romance, a thriller with no tension. Owen and Roberts get a “D-“ for chemistry, their banter occupying ink on a script, sounds on a speaker, images on a screen, but not our hearts or minds.
Ray and Claire’s respective companies are helmed by men who loathe each other enough to engage in a public wrestling match on the strip of runway that separates their private jets. One is played by Tom Wilkinson, that wonderful English actor who can seem dignified and wise even when he explodes, and the other by Paul Giamatti, who has made a career playing insufferable jerks but always seems a bit wounded by the knowledge that comes with being aware of the world’s darkness. Each actor makes an impression with his small screen time, and halfway through I desperately wanted the film to be about these men, with Ray and Claire popping in occasionally as supporting characters.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy previously wrote the Jason Bourne films, which were much dumber than this but also bothered to allow things to occur. The spy games here are suspense-free, a series of corporate boardrooms and shareholders meetings. If these two learned anything really interesting from their respective agencies other than how to use sex as a weapon, then it doesn’t show. Jason Bourne would go out with martial arts and a car chase, Ray and Claire exit with a trip to the copy machine. A clever plot twist at the end would have worked even better had it made any sense.
Alas, it could have worked, if only we were supplied with even one scene that required our sympathy for the lovebirds. But despite their careers, they’re boring people, excellent at their jobs but vacant of concern and human emotion. If they get rich, good for them, but what’s in it for us?
Posted by James at 3/26/2009 12:14:00 AM