Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Duplicity" - REVIEW

Tony Gilroy's second major film has quite a few things in common with "Michael Clayton", his debut. Like "Michael Clayton", it's a complex story, with more than a few names to keep track of. Where it diverges, is in its chronology. Everything seems to be moving purely forward, before it jumps back, and then forward, then back (but not as far), and then a little more forward, and then back, and then forward, but not as forward as before. Ray (Clive Owen) and Claire (Julia Roberts) are ex MI6 and CIA agents respectively, who after a bad start in Dubai, end up working to try and con one of a pair of pharmaceutical companies. Ray works for Equikrom, run by Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti), and Claire works for Burkett-Randall, run by Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). These two CEO's absolutely loathe each other, and Tony Gilroy hilarious sets this up in the film's opening credits sequence, which shows the two CEO's meeting each other on a private runway, yelling and spitting, and wrestling each other to the ground, all in silent slow motion. To say much more about the complicated plot would be criminal, and it's best that you go in with as little knowledge of what's going on as possible. And while "Duplicity" may not be quite the "Oscar bait" that "Michael Clayton" was, it's actually a more enjoyable film, that benefits from the blend of heist antics and smart romantic comedy. Roberts and Owen have terrific chemistry, and Giamatti and Wilkinson provide thouroughly entertaining supporting characters. And unlike many heist thrillers, the pay-off is well worth it, delivering twist, after twist, after twist, up until the final reveal/s. In the middle portion, it borders on being overwritten, and there will be points where you're left almost clueless, but in the end, you'll understand almost everything, without the movie beating you over the head. Just like "Michael Clayton", it's also a movie that requires you to be awake, because if you aren't, you'll be extremely lost. Special mention goes to the mostly tight editing, camera work, and James Newton Howard's lively score, which fits the mood perfectly. At times there is intrigue, and even high tension, but you're never scared that someone's going to die, or that a bomb is going to go off. Basically, "Duplicity" is the super smart older cousin of the Ocean's 11 franchise, and proof that it is still possible to make a smart, funny, AND complicated thriller; finally, some good news from Hollywood.

Grade: B+/A-

Number of 2009 films seen: 6

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