DVD of the Week – Review of Duplicity (2009)
by HELEN GEIB
This week’s DVD pick is a movie that I enjoyed enough to recommend, but not enough to recommend without qualifications. Duplicity was written and directed by Tony Gilroy in follow-up to the superior Michael Clayton. Gilroy’s other principal credit is as the screenwriter of the “Bourne” trilogy. Duplicity is considerably lighter in tone than those earlier films, but like them is preoccupied with deception; in particular, the way people who live by deceiving others, and themselves, are warped by it.
The main caveat to my recommendation is that the third-act is relatively weak: it’s a difficult job to pull off a convincing con game movie and Gilroy doesn’t quite manage it. The secondary qualification is that an overall focus on flash over substance makes Duplicity a film of superficial, if still considerable pleasures.
The film’s title is most appropriate. Clive Owen and Julia Roberts star as former intelligence operatives who see the chance of a big score in industrial espionage. The partners-in-crime are lovers who mistrust each other. They are running an elaborate con on their respective employers, corporate competitors in the personal care products business. Dishonesty and conniving run rampant to the point there’s hardly a single sympathetic person in sight. The main story is set inside a two week window, with crucial background information periodically doled out in flashbacks to keep the audience guessing.
Writer Gilroy builds a plot that is a many-storied house of cards. Although it collapses in the end, it’s still fun to watch it being constructed. Director Gilroy keeps things lively; the story unfolds at a brisk pace and the film is frequently amusing in a darkly comic way. Much of the credit for the film’s success must go to the performances, which are very good across the board. Owen and Roberts are well-matched, while Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson make much of small, but colorful roles as feuding CEOs.
Special features are a commentary track by Tony Gilroy and editor and co-producer John Gilroy.
Other new releases this week: Adventureland, Fighting, Goodbye Solo, Sunshine Cleaning