Sometimes I think I must be mad. This week is a good example; out every night at work-related functions, so have to fit in a movie in the dirty mac slot again, after a day that began with a breakfast meeting, went on to a three-hour brainstorming, then the date at the Odeon and write this review before going out to a networking dinner. When the film is good, it’s not a problem; this week, annoyingly, Il Divo, the latest political docudrama out of Italy, is not doing matinees, so I had to plump for Duplicity.
The trailers had made this seem potentially amusing; the reality was that it was as dull as ditchwater, with stilted dialogue masquerading as witty repartee, albeit between two alleged heart-throbs of cinema audiences. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play CIA and MI6 agents who team up to make their millions. Their big idea is to double cross corporate America, steal a top-secret product blueprint, and sell it to the highest bidder. So far so good in principle. However, that was too simple for the director who tried this filmgoer’s patience by having reverse chronology flashbacks, ending up at the present day, interspersed with the ‘action’. Not only is this laboured, but also ultimately rather confusing. Oh, and obviously they fall for each other – or is it all part of the game?
Apparently this is Julia Roberts’s big come-back film after a long screen absence and her many male admirers are very excited. So Roberts’s fans may enjoy the film just to see her; but for this jaded female she relies too much on her pretty woman laurels while her character is unattractively antsy. As for Clive Owen, he is appearing in a plethora of crime/thriller genre movies, so keen is he to prove he should be the next James Bond. To augment his credentials he has toned up significantly since Closer, when he was rather flabby and paunchy. He doesn’t do it for me I am afraid, despite the new bod, and neither does she, mostly because both Ray and Claire – the characters they play – are intensely irritating. They are forever testing each other’s fidelity and loyalty by playing little tricks or word games; this is I think meant to be funny, but instead is formulaic and boring.
The supporting cast are rather two-dimensional although I did like Paul Giametti as the epitome of greedy corporate America, the CEO who will stop at nothing to be the master of the universe (actually he reminded me somewhat of my former American boss in the scene where he does the company rah-rah so beloved in US business culture – taking the mickey out of corporate America may be the point of the film, if indeed there is a point).On the other hand dear old Tom Wilkinson, normally more like a friendly woolly jumper when he is playing a Brit, but always less familiar when doing the American, is equally ruthless but in a less stereo-typical way. There’s a nice scene when he’s pruning his bonsai with clinical precision using a very sharp instrument.
The suspense element is critical to a thriller. In Duplicity we are constantly teased into wondering what the twist is going to be, who’s fooling who. When it came it was almost satisfying if rather predictable; but what a while it took to get there.