Film Review | Sunday, 19 April 2009
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Delicious double-crosses

Pardon me if I sound crass, but how can a film that aims for suspense also be long-winded? This isn’t an issue of running time, nor is it a question of the supposed malaise of the ‘attention-deficit-disorder generation’ running rampant and ruining the possibility of lovingly crafted, perfectly-polished Hitchcockian masterpieces ever being filmed again. Hitchcock still stands today as the master of suspense laced with sexual intrigue. Though he may have an undercurrent of neuroses, of a darkness that doesn’t seem to be Tony Gilroy’s aim with Duplicity, I bet that he could teach the up-and-coming filmmaker (riding on the success of Michael Clayton) a thing or two about leaner plotting and smoother exposition.
The admittedly clever premise centres around Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) and Clive Owen (Ray Koval) - enamoured corporate spies who get a kick out of playing rival companies against each other. Their aim is to pull a heist big enough for both of them to live off of, an opportunity that seems to present itself when two pharmaceutical tycoons (Howard Tully, played by Tom Wilkinson and Dick Garsik, Paul Giamatti) seem to be on the brink of discovering a golden-goose product.
After that, well…things get a little complicated. Gilroy seems to want to recreate the feel of suave, Cary Grant-starring Hollywood crime-capers of old, but he crams it with technical detail that seems squarely aimed at the John Grisham reading public, and seems frustrated with his cinematography: the gritty blacks of the corporate setting (which dominate a central part of the story) clash with both the globe-trotting couple’s mid-mission courting sessions as well as the James Bond-lite feel we are meant to get from the ensuing battle of wits and charm.
All is not lost: the chemistry between the stars works, to a point, and Giamatti’s Garsik is enchantingly neurotic (picture a human Daffy Duck), but overall, the film requires more concentration that it’s worth.


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