MOVIE REVIEW ★★★★ / 4 ‘Duplicity’ Reveres Spy Films of the PastJulia Roberts Makes Espionage Sexy

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The March 20 review of Duplicity incorrectly called the film’s director, Tony Gilroy, the director of the Bourne films. Gilroy is actually one of the Bourne films’ writers. The same article misspelled the lead actor’s last name twice. His name is Clive Owen, not “Owens.”


Written & Directed by Tony Gilroy

Starring Julia Roberts, Clive Owen & Tom Wilkinson

Rated PG-13

In theaters today

I predict Duplicity to be another blockbuster hit. It boasts a stellar cast, the director of the Bourne series and Michael Clayton and, on top of all that, is an espionage movie. If well-known stars like Julia Roberts and Clive Owens weren’t enough, the film exploits the age-old affections towards spy movies.

The film, like its leading actress, is both sexy and smart. Although directed by Tony Gilroy, Bourne fans may be disappointed by the lack of intense action scenes. It only makes sense though. In its truest form, Duplicity is not an action film, and it’s perhaps too cynical to be an authentic love story. It is, however, witty and clever. The plot plays tricks on the audience and elusively reveals its full form only at the very end. The overarching theme of the film is an interplay between truth and deceit, carried through the actions and reactions of two people embroiled in lies and the consequences of their relationship.

The backdrop of Duplicity is a corporate battle between two prominent company heads, impassive and bonsai-trimming Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) and tantrum-prone Dick Garsik (Paul Giamatti). A battle in the business world arises when Tully releases news of his preparation of a secret formula for a product. Claire (Roberts), an ex-CIA officer and Ray (Owens), an ex-M16 agent enter the scene as corporate spies. While posing for the respective companies, the two are actually in a scheme to obtain the product for themselves and secretly sell it to the Swiss. While the two CEOs go to head to head, the romantically entangled spies plan for the story of the century.

The film oozes with sensuality without being vulgar and the banter alone between the two characters is enough to move the film forward. Both characters, experienced in the industry of espionage find each other untrustworthy. Ironically, they are also extremely understanding of one another, due to their similar backgrounds. The tension in the film is almost stifling at times, and the cat and dog interactions between Ray and Claire are both entertaining and exhausting. It’s literally fight, kiss, and make up, except on repeat and in various exotic locations.

Despite their ages, both Owen and Roberts still possess the charisma and sensuality of their younger counterparts. Owen, even well in his middle age, can still make any girl swoon with his intense blue gaze, and Roberts plays it effortlessly sexy. The chemistry between the two is astounding and may cause the faint-hearted to blush profusely.

The film is a must for those who want to keep guessing until the very end. Although the plot itself is not very complex, the film is detailed, intricate and more multi-layered than many realize. Although Duplicity intentionally pays homage to classic spy films with its quadra-panel transitions and James Bond-esque music, it is much more than just a spy film.

For fans of Ocean’s Eleven and The Departed or those who enjoyed both Roberts and Owen in Closer, Duplicity is a must see.