(Tony Gilroy, 2009)
Slick enjoyable caper film that tries to channel old Hollywood romantic comedy. What we’re given throughout is a chess match between Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, both formerly government intelligence agents, and now entrenched in corporate security in rival multi-million-dollar corporations. They’re both beautiful and smart. They’re attracted to each other, but can they learn to trust?
The answer to that question is revealed, but not before we’re led by the nose through an intentionally confusing plot, where one’s perceptions of Owen and Roberts constantly evolves, depending on the situations. While at first, it’s fun to keep up with the twists, they become a bit tiresome, and one can’t help but wonder where all this doubling back is headed.
Owen is plenty suave and charismatic in the role traditionally given to Cary Grant. Roberts, in a welcome return, mostly plays steely-eyed restraint, instead of the sexy toughness she wishes to exude. I also don’t really feel the sparks needed in their relationship, though writer/director Tony Gilroy’s playful, wordy script does its best to convince us. I kept hoping for more scenes like the one we get where Owen seduces a naive travel agent (Carrie Preston) to amp up the tension between he and Roberts. Instead, Gilroy uses the encounter to again twist the question of their trust one more time.
Like its characters, Duplicity plays hard to get. It looks great, and it’s quite a tease. And while it doesn’t always deliver, the pursuit is entertaining enough.