Bourne trilogy scriptwriter and Michael Clayton director Tony Gilroy has proved himself something of a dab hand with espionage tales. His second directorial effort, Duplicity, is his attempt at a Mr & Mrs Smith type crowd pleaser with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts in the respective Brangelina roles. The result is decidedly mixed. The trouble is that Gilroy (as both screenwriter and director) quickly strands what should have been a smart high concept thriller somewhere between a popcorn movie and a brooding paranoia thriller. So, the only person Gilroy ends up conning is himself.
The convoluted plot starts off in Dubai in 2003 and a meeting between CIA spy Claire Stenwick (Roberts) and MI6 agent Ray Koval (Owen in now over-familiar minimalist style). The on-screen couple played opposite each other in Mike Nichols’ drab Closer and it’s to Gilroy’s credit that he uses their contrasting acting styles to the benefit of a story involving a complicated con to steal $40 million dollars from a New York based mega corporation run by Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). The joke is that these con-artist lovers simply don’t trust each other.
Duplicity unfolds out of chronological order with an at times maddening desire to throw a new sting in the tale at every cut. However, this desire to keep the audience second-guessing falls on its face somewhere between London, the Bahamas and Rome.
General release, Fri 20 Mar.