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Duplicity review

Deception, Derailed, Double Jeopardy – do the titles of these built-to-thrill efforts ever give you Déjà Vu?

Generic-sounding it may be, but writer/director Tony Gilroy’s latest effort has the pedigree of a prestige pic, matching the crew of his Oscar-winning Michael Clayton with a cast that have sparred together before – quite appropriate for a film about copying formulas.

Owen and Roberts are ex-spies and ex-lovers who find themselves on opposite intelligence teams in a “corporate deathmatch” between Giamatti and Wilkinson’s warring CEOs. As the film flits from boardroom to bedroom, globetrotting through Rome, New York and Dubai, it tracks the many mornings after of their distrustful trysts, juxtaposing their professional and personal lives as it builds to an almighty sting.

Though it’s a little po-faced for what purports to be a romantic caper, there’s much to enjoy: the glossy locations, a slow-motion smackdown between Giamatti and Wilkinson, and the sense that this is real espionage where photocopied secrets play more of a part than Quantum Of Solace-style plane wrangling.

There are problems though: Owen’s cocky and Roberts is cold, which hardly plays to their strengths; they have several very public spats – not a great idea for those involved in international subterfuge; and you get the sense that Gilroy is trying a bit too hard to misdirect us in order to shout: “Gotcha!”, albeit with some justification.

Occasionally the image shrinks and separates into a four-way split screen, suggesting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle coming together. Clever, but Owen and Roberts mislead each other to the point of superfluity, the last shot stranding them between two ornate curtains as if acknowledging the overly staged nature of the set-up.

After a nail-biting climax and the requisite reversals demanded by the title, the closing song claims that “being bad never felt so good”, but “being better than average” would be nearer the mark. It’s a class act, but even as you doubt what you’re seeing, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.

Matt Glasby
 

Furrowed of brow where it should be frothy, this nimble espionage thriller is a bit too clever for its own good – not a criticism you hear too often in Hollywood.

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