Clever comic thriller which takes the old concept of spies in love and gives it a novel twist by having its characters – ex-MI6 agent Clive Owen and ex-CIA agent Julia Roberts – dealing not with international intrigue but with corporate espionage, the new frontier. This premise isn't a big surprise, as it comes from writer-director Tony Gilroy: his last film, the overrated drama Michael Clayton, also dealt with corporate malfeasance. That Duplicity is the better film may suggest that humor's knife cuts deeper when unearthing the evils of big business. Then again, it just may be due to a tighter, more suspenseful script.
In a nutshell, Roberts and Owen play intelligence agents for two warring consumer pharmaceutical companies (think Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble), one of which is sitting on a revolutionary product that the other wants to steal. The rest of the movie is a fast-paced scramble to find out just who's telling the truth and who's got ulterior motives, and how that sort of life can present challenges to two people in love.
I can't say anything bad about this movie. The script is tight, the dialogue crackles, there's good tension, a snazzy score by James Newton Howard, and a perfect supporting cast led by Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. I don't usually care for Roberts, but I like her here for the same reasons I like it when Tom Cruise plays a villain: although Roberts and her keepers have carefully sculpted her as a jovial big-sister type in real life, I suspect she's not quite as happy-go-lucky as she presents herself publicly, and might indeed be more like the aloof, calculating professional she plays in Duplicity. So I feel like I'm seeing more of the real person. In any event, although I can't say she has any chemistry with Clive Owen, she does succeed in keeping him awake – this is one of his more uptempo performances, and I sense that he may even be enjoying himself.
Duplicity isn't the kind of film that will stay with you, but it's a very pleasant, satisfying night at the movies, especially for the over-25 crowd.