Can someone please call time on Tony Gilroy? He may be smart and well-connected, but he makes in-flight movies (i.e. movies you would only watch because the alternative was a 30,000 foot drop). Even the Bourne series – knuckle-hard and email-quick as they are – are forgettable. Can you honestly remember anything from the third Bourne movie? Nothing specific, I’ll bet. And yet, you do remember something. You remember everyone saying it was good. That it was intelligent. That it was made by “grown-ups”. They’ll say the same about Duplicity. And you’ll struggle to remember a single thing about this movie, too.
It’s a spy movie, a caper movie; the kind of thing Cary Grant would have arched an eyebrow in years ago. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play ex-spies and on-again/off-again lovers who get involved in industrial espionage. Two rival pharmaceutical corporations are at war over a top secret new product. Julia is undercover with the firm who have something new. Clive is working for the other guys. Ulterior motives are so common in these circles; trust is almost a philosophical issue. Here the writer spies a tedious “relationship” parallel. Can Julia really believe that Clive’s in love with her? Can Clive believe that Julia won’t sell him out?
Though no-one gives a shit about the answers to these questions, in answer to the question: “Does Julia Roberts look hot?” It’s a resounding YES. True, Duplicity is a come-back vehicle the way a skateboard carries prestige, but Julia Roberts’ later career isn’t about weekend box office; it’s about saying BITE ME to Botox. Julia, from the looks of it, looks forty. And she looks damn good. There is no attempt to make her look or act like Megan Fox in Duplicity, and you get the impression, if anyone had suggested maybe injecting poison into Julia’s forehead, Julia would have kicked that person in the nut-sack. Now I’ll grant you Julia made a lot of crap in her time, and maybe she wasn’t always the best actress, but you have to grant her this: she hasn’t turned into Nicole Kidman. Even as you’re listening to her deliver another of Tony Gilroy’s woeful attempts at flirtatious banter, you’re mesmerized by the simple fact HER FACE CAN MOVE.
Clive Owen continues with his one-performance-fits-all approach; a little gruff, a little sly, a little careworn, like an uncle who’s always trying to act dangerous. It would take a forensics team to find the difference between the tough, sexy M16 officer he plays here and the tough, sexy Interpol officer he played in The International, but since Owen turned down James Bond, it’s almost the producers’ revenge to have him play 007. In Duplicity he’s mainly there because Julia likes him. They had a good rapport in Closer. They’re equals. The trouble for Julia is: most leading men look like her kid brother.
When Clive and Julia are together, Duplicity works (sort of). Tony Gilroy is best directing two people talking in a room. When the movie aims for tension: you get Julia desperately trying to locate a photocopier. This is not, nor ever will be an occasion for heart-stopping suspense. It would help if the director had some visual sense that offices are f—ing boring to look at for the most part. But no. Julia searches, and the decor, like the movie, is bland.
Tony Gilroy is supposedly a guy who makes movies for adults. This is all well and good for adults who like their movies to last several million years, but for anyone who values pace, Tony Gilroy is an idiot. There isn’t any way in the world Duplicity should be two hours long, but Gilroy has made it two hours and five minutes. What part of “breezy” escaped Mr. Gilroy? This is a movie about two movie stars getting together. You put them in the frame; you give them something suggestive to say… Roll credits. All half the audience wants to see is how Julia’s aging. Duplicity feels like the opposite of Julia’s forehead: sleek, refined and unremarkable.