Director: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson
Like The ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ Remake, With Less Casinos And More Egotism
‘Claire’ (Julia Roberts) and ‘Ray’ (Clive Owen) meet each other in Dubai, at a US Consulate. They connect, spend a night together, and then she does something highly suspicious to him. We fast forward, and learn that they are now working together in a bid of corporate sabotage to receive a nice big pay off.
The title suggests convolution, this is what you get, but intrigue you do not. The film’s opening scene builds itself up very quickly, it gives the impression that this is going to be a fantastic film, and makes you think that if you don’t enjoy it within the first 20 minutes or so, you will later on. This is achieved primarily by scriptwork, mostly by the immediate chemistry between Roberts and Owen, and is further encouraged by some cinematographic choices which don’t seem to have the effect that they should.
The film initially progresses quite slowly; leaving the audience fairly clueless for quite a long time, and the only device used to explain elements of mysterious plot development are via the insistent use of flashbacks (mostly consisting of infatuation between the two main players), which go from anywhere between 3 years and a few weeks back from the current moment in time. The use of flashbacks is not always a bad thing, but it often depends on how they are worked into the script. In this instance; it feels like they were fairly pointless, and the quantity got quite annoying, this is mostly because there didn’t seem to be a reason for it. There was no reason why the film couldn’t tell the story in a more linear fashion, and try to capture the audience in some other, more inventive, method.
The film doesn’t seem to give you much to think about at all, judging simply by the title, you’d expect to have your brains in gear, but this isn’t really the case; all you have to do is pay attention and follow the story. The main story seemed to be all there was to this film, there were very few (arguably; if any) sub plots, and there seemed to be some kind of failed undertone; a satirical stab at competitive corporations, which only seemed to vaguely crop up here and there, and didn’t seem to make any distinctive point towards anything in reality.
There is a very evident awareness that this film isn’t too sure of itself, in the sense of the genre and audience at which it is trying to appeal to. There is a lot of vaguely nauseating romantic scenes between Owen and Roberts, and this is counteracted at various points with attempted tension along the lines of a thriller. Additionally, there were a few instances of comedy delivered through dialogue, though most attempts here were pretty lame and there only seemed to be one scene which was very ‘laugh out loud’ funny. Cumulatively, these elements don’t mix well together, and made for a particularly messy mix of genres which is quite disappointing.
The acting overall wasn’t too bad; Julia Roberts is fairly solid in her role but nothing special. Paul Giamatti gave a brilliant performance, as did Tom Wilkinson. Clive Owen is very surprising however; personally, I was unsure of what to expect, I’ve always seen him as a fairly mediocre actor who gives good performances in his roles but is often very familiar, as well as this, I’ve often felt him best suited to action roles, such as ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ as an extreme example or ‘Sin City’ as a more appropriate one. ‘Duplicity’ has no action, it is more thriller orientated in structure, and it’s surprising to see Owen thrive very well in such a role. There are still certain nuances to his performance which give off a very customary vibe, but he displayed a certain set of uniqueness to his role here and there. One particular scene he shone in is where he masquerades as a man from Tennessee, which he executed very convincingly. Kudos to Owen.
One fairly nice aspect to the film, however, is that it is fairly (if only amorphously) redolent of the old crime caper films of roughly around the 60s, however, it doesn’t quite live up to any of them. If I had the option of watching this, or anything from previous decades with equally reputable cast members, I would choose something from previous decades.
‘Duplicity’ just doesn’t even live up to basic expectations, the film has clearly been designed to entertain, yet struggles to do so. The film behaves in a manner which feels as if it should have some deeper meaning to it, some kind of subtle connection to reality, yet as mentioned, this simply isn’t worked upon. Furthermore there is a great contempt for all the characters involved, there is no established reason for why the audience should care about anything that happens during the course of the film.
This film is 5 out of 10; the performances from Giamatti, Wilkinson and Owen were brilliant, but the film reeks of narcissism. Also, ironically, if you pay to see this on the big screen; you will be duped. Despite that phrase being admittedly very platitudinous, it really is true.
This isn’t a film to go rushing out to see, there really isn’t anything special about it. If you want to see it, I advise you wait for it to hit your TV screens in a few years, then you won’t feel like such a victim of the title.
Cross-posted with: Tecurious