Director Tony Gilroy’s latest big-screen release “Duplicity” seems to have all the makings to follow in the footsteps of one of his most popular hits “The Bourne Identity” trilogy, complete with a whirlwind of espionage, suspense and action. Unfortunately, Gilroy’s blockbuster formula failed him. “Duplicity” actually lacks all of the usually successful elements and has absolutely no espionage, suspense or action whatsoever.
Gilroy, who usually keeps moviegoers on the edge of their seats, leaves them snoozing through scenes. Julia Roberts ( “Ocean’s Twelve”) and Clive Owen (“The International”) attempt to steam up the plot with their relationship, but this is one tough job to pull with no plot in sight.
Gilroy resorts to the usual tricks to keep viewers guessing, but jumping the timeline and revealing clues tend only to work when there’s something to reveal. Plots typically involve some kind of backstabbing, some struggle between the main characters and some kind of conflict. So, what does “Duplicity” have up its sleeves? Absolutely nothing. The biggest conflict in the film revolves around Roberts and Owen deciding whether they can trust each other. Are they in love, or are they using each other? This is a fine plot supplement to a real movie but certainly not the basis for one by itself.
The problem certainly isn’t the acting. Roberts and Owen, both seasoned in the field, manage to carry out their characters quite well despite the nonexistent plot. They have good chemistry — just not a good script. Their scenes jump between the two working in their respective companies towards their ultimate theft together and then reuniting for sex. Sex weekends are always entertaining, but Gilroy doesn’t even throw a fun sex scene in; they are only alluded to. Then again, why would he include anything remotely interesting?
Along with the mind-numbing plot, “Duplicity” also lacks any cool spy gadgets. Computer hacking has been done. Especially since audiences have probably frequented other espionage-oriented movies, including Gilroy’s own “Bourne” trilogy. Simply put, moviegoers expect more. The most frequently used device in “Duplicity” is a computer that hacks copy machines. Looks like Gilroy took a nice long stay in Lame City. However, the incorporation of spy gear requires that there be any sort of action, so the lack of gadgets turns out to be a moot point.
On the very dimly lit side, the acting — as mentioned earlier — isn’t the problem, and some of the supporting roles added a minuscule amount of interest. The top supporting aid in the film without a question is Paul Giamatti ( “Shoot ‘Em Up”), who plays the CEO for one of the competing companies. His insane level of stress adds a little dribble of comedy to the film, and it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get more screen time. His character — along with the selection of actors — were the only small nods to Gilroy’s true talent.
Carrie Preston (“Doubt”) also adds a little gleam of light in the darkness that was this disaster of a film. After being admittedly seduced by Owen and questioned about it, she willing confides in Roberts that she loved it and wouldn’t take it back for the world. The innocence and vulnerability of her character are a quick treat in the long 125-minute film.
If spy movies are a favorite, don’t get too excited about the recent release of “Duplicity.” Espionage turned out to be the last thing on Gilroy’s mind, as the film revolves around trust issues and non-existent sex scenes. Although there is an A-list line up of actors, they are simply actors. Ultimately, the biggest mistake of the film lies with Gilroy, who fails to produce any kind of a plot. With a new writer/director this would be expected, but as Gilroy has knocked out other hits, there’s really no excuse. Maybe he was distracted, maybe he fell asleep while writing the script — no one will ever know. What is apparent is that the film is a snoozer and not even worth a rental.
2 stars out of 5.