I think my idea of the perfect Saturday night movie could be summed up as: smart, funny, sexy. Let's say a heist-type movie with plenty of twists, two smouldering stars with some chemistry and a script crackling with wit and intelligence. I so wish that that was an accurate description of Duplicity. It isn't a million miles away. A story about a couple of ex-intelligence officers working in the corporate world, two rival corporations, plot twists, intrigue, sex and money, some laughs and, well, at least one smouldering star, this is a film which is close to hitting the mark but lacking the bite to really bring it home.
Director Tony Gilroy has worked primarily as a screenwriter and adapter (credits range from State of Play to the Bourne franchise and Armageddon) making his directorial debut with Michael Clayton. I didn't see that but it did at least look interesting and a quick glance at the tomatometer looks encouraging. Tom Wilkinson gets another nod in Duplicity playing the fastidious boss Walter Tully with Paul Giamatti as his nemesis and rival Richard Garsik. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen complete the classy cast as the corporate spies with a history. Only half of that quartet are really firing; Giamatti grimacing to full effect with those unique teeth and Roberts. . . I'm fighting hard to resist a quip here. . . actually the thing about Julia Roberts is that the more I watch her the more I'm genuinely impressed by her. She knows exactly how to give a look that's loaded, knows how to wring the most out of a script and most important of all pulls of the hardest trick of all (especially in a film like this): making it all look spontaneous.
The plot isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is and the script certainly has its moments but doesn't sustain over the course of the film. The really crucial missing ingredient is the chemistry between the two leads. I've never been wholly convinced by Clive Owen but the idea that he could be a future Bond should be well and truly put to bed after this outing. I'm beginning to sound harsher than I mean to, it's an enjoyable film, but not one I'd be thrilled to see repeated on some rainy Saturday night.