Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Few things are sweeter to a geek than having watched a quality movie that apparently not a lot of other people even knew existed. Last night I watched Tony Gilroy's 'Duplicity', a sweet little espionage thriller/romantic comedy starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, and I have to say that I have no clear idea why it didn't do better at the box office. It was Gilroy's follow-up to his media darling 'Michael Clayton', so one would think it would've done better and received a bit more accolade than a paltry $40 mil at the box office and sixty-something percent on Rotten Tomatoes, right? Well, unfortunately, wrong.

'Duplicity' is a twisty tale of two deeply undercover (and romantically intertwined) corporate intelligence agents scheming to pull a long con on their respective employers, and both roles are played with aplomb by Clive and Julia. I realize Julia probably doesn't have much geek credibility, but believe me, she is at her absolute least annoying in this movie and plays her role quite well. Clive's his usual rock solid self, as one would expect, but the real acting aerobatics come from the great Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. The two men only have a single scene together at the very beginning of the film, but it is that very scene that sets up their relationship for the duration of the film. Put simply, they hate each other. And man, I mean HATE. They're CEOs of two rival pharmaceutical companies, and the poison and vitriol they have towards one another is practically tangible.

Giamatti's the real star of 'Duplicity', to be quite honest, and he spends his time onscreen with a twisted scowl on his face, usually reserved for his feelings toward Wilkinson. To give too much of the plot away would be a crime, but just know that the opportunity of watching these two guys constantly attempt to outwit one another is worth the price of admission (or rental, more appropriately) alone. Tom and Paul make chewing scenery in this film into an outright contest.

I admired Tony Gilroy's attempt to push himself with the writing of this film, and it's only occasionally that he gets the slightest bit over his head. Keep in mind that 'Duplicity' contains many, many plot twists and almost as many character flashbacks, so this isn't exactly a film to enjoy with a large crowd of people. Picture Tony Gilroy attempting to pull off a three-episode arc of 'Lost'. It's a thinker for sure, and by the time the final twist comes around, the payoff is enormous. A touch formulaic, but immensely rewarding nonetheless. Highly recommended on all counts, but if you're as much of a Paul Giamatti fan as I am, 'Duplicity' is not to be missed.

For the A/V nerds out there, I highly suggest watching the Blu-Ray disc if possible, as all the locations, scenery and sets in the film are very beautiful. There are next to no extras on the disc itself save a commentary from Tony Gilroy (not exactly a surprise with how badly it bombed at the BO), but if a pretty picture is what you're after, the Blu-Ray edition of 'Duplicity' delivers on all counts.

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