So why didn't I go and see it? Well it got quite a lot of negative comments, or rather average, middle of the road, comments. Comments that were ranging from unexcited to the more negative. However after watching it I wish I had seen it at the time, even though I can see the problems with the film and why it didn't receive the praise you might have thought from that officious role call. It is a good film and the two leads are great, but as I said, the story does have some problems.
The story is simple, two ex-spies meet during their official duties and instantly hit it off, except the target for Julia Robert's spy happens to be Clive Owen's spy, so the first time they meet there may be an attraction, but there's also a job to do, and it ends the relationship extremely badly, with drugging and theft. Cut to present day and they both meet up on opposite sides of a huge corporation undercover battle, corporations that pay millions to have their own covert teams spying on the competition and their own people. They decide that they could make some nice retirement money for themselves if they play both sides of the fence, however neither is really sure that the other isn't playing them, nor is the audience.
I had high hopes for the film as you can tell, mainly pinned around that duo of Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. They were excellent together in Closer (Filmstalker review), and I'm not a huge fan of Clive Owen, but there he had a real connection with his co-star and did let some stronger emotion play out, and you really felt there was something more between them. Again you see that strong chemistry and more emotional performance from Owen with Duplicity, although it's fair to say that it's not as strong as it was with Closer. Still, they play very well together but it's Roberts that steals the show, and demonstrates that when she plays a serious role she really can play it well.
It's not that I don't enjoy Julia Roberts in her more light hearted roles, but she's a great actress, and when the comedy and light heartedness is put to the side and we concentrate on her acting skills, you suddenly realise there's so much more to offer.
Tony Gilroy delivers a stylish and great looking film with plenty of pace to it. There's also a great set-up to the story and what promises to be an intelligent one that's going to get the viewer thinking and pull them along a journey rather than sitting there and letting entertainment wash over them.
In other words this was my kind of film. I really love intelligent thrillers, especially with some clever wit thrown in, and this had all the markings of being just that.
However, despite the film looking great, carrying some strong performances from both leads, stylish scenes, a great set-up and a more intelligent script, it just doesn't deliver all it sets itself up to. Where it really seems to fall down is in the story itself, and primarily in its structure.
We follow the two leads meeting in present day, and their relationship and what they are doing seems somewhat confusing, or rather their motives and feelings for each other do, and what the film tries to do is employ flashbacks to previous meetings between them to explain how they met, what they do, how they came about this idea, what the idea is, and to keep us guessing as to what their real motives are. On paper and up front it sounds a great idea, but they don't fit in with the story, and although they did reveal some twists about the relationship and extend the story telling, they didn't give me the surprise moments of motive and story revelation that I had expected.
I thought that come the end of one of the flashbacks there would be a surprise feeling of the present day story taking on a new edge, a new direction, or change our perceptions of the events and characters because of what we had just learned from that flashback, but that hardly ever happened for me, and when it did it didn't lack the punch that I expected or wanted. They didn't feel as if they properly tied in with the current story line nor did they offer anything new over what we were learning in that main story thread.
These flashbacks did manage to build on the combatitive and uncertain relationship between the two lead characters though and helped to build our suspicions regarding both, but it just wasn't enough. Perhaps I was expecting too much from the film, but that did seem to be the level of intelligence offered by the fast paced, witty and thrilling present day story thread.
That main story thread does play out well though, and the story does end well with a very satisfying and certainly unexpected ending.
With some of the fast pace that the film calls for and the stylish transitions, I did expect that some of it might be lost on the small screen, however despite noticing a slight grain effect of the screen during a few of the movement scenes, something that is possibly due to scanning frequency and eye movement, the picture comes across really well and delivers strong contrast without making the blacks look grey. The picture looks great on the smaller screen, and to be honest when it's sitting right in front of you it can have the same scale as sitting at the back row of a big cinema or watching a smaller widescreen LCD.
iTouch stereo with Sony embedded earphones
The audio comes across well with the portable device and and just stereo. With the music and more frantic moments lifting the volume and other scenes consisting solely of the two characters talking in hushed voices, relying on the inbuilt stereo would perhaps seem very limiting, and made me think that I would have had to continually alter the volume, however that wasn't the case and it held well allowing me to hear everything the film had to offer.
Duplicity does have a lot going for it. It's a sharply written and stylishly directed film with two great leads performing really well off of each other. Clive Owen and Julia Roberts give strong performances that really make you feel that they are in a relationship, a combative one at that. Tony Gilroy uses some stylish transitions, split screens, slow motion to great effect, and both the lighting and cinematography are very good and make the film look exciting and flow really well.
Unfortunately all these points together seem to suggest a film much better than the one that is delivered and it does fall down a little with the flashback sequences and trying to connect these with the main story. Yet it's not a terrible film, it's disappointing, but the main thread alone is worth watching, especially if it's just for the leads.