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Duplicity – a knot: not worth picking!

Submitted by on April 1, 2009 – 8:47 pmOne Comment

duplicityMy local cinema states: “If you liked Ocean’s Eleven and The Bourne Ultimatum you’ll love Duplicity. They were lying! I enjoyed both Ocean’s Eleven and The Bourne Ultimatum and had hoped that Duplicity would at least be somewhere on the way to being entertaining.

The sad thing it seems, is that Duplicity tries to be smart and confusing to such a silly degree that you get the feeling that the writer himself got confused.


A pair of corporate spies who share a steamy past hook up to pull off the ultimate con job on their respective bosses.


How I would love to explain the plot in a little more detail for you but it seems beyond me. This is mainly due to the fact that the main characters are highly untrustworthy individuals whose job it is to be undercover. By about the 1 hour 15 minute mark I had completely given up on coming to a satisfactory resolution. Roll on another 45 minutes and I was correct in thinking that.

The main sellable factor of Duplicity is Clive Owen and Julia Roberts’ dynamic. There should have been more romantic banter between them and for a relatively long film there wasn’t nearly enough. The difficulty lies then in the lack of that fabled word: “chemistry”. Neither actor had a scene where you really felt the emotions fly back and forth. Perhaps that is the point. Perhaps they were cast as moles due to their inane ability to hide their true feelings (and inability to act them also).

The other difficulty is when you are told that everybody is after an unknown “thing”. It could be a formula, a microchip, an autistic child and yet none of these satisfies. Indeed, when you are told what the “unknown thing” is, you really want to just give up this silliness. It feels as if when you buy a ticket to see Duplicity, you should be offered two free Nurofen (to ease the headache).

The saving grace here is Paul Giamatti’s character who manages to be highly entertaining with so few scenes. is also highly underused in the script, preferring to focus on Owen and Roberts’ performances. This seems like a mistake as the opening scene where Giamatti’s and Wilkinsons’ characters are having fisticuffs on the air strip is a quite brilliant film starter. Unfortunately this is not returned to as the film closes and you feel a little cheated somewhat.

Duplicity is not a Sunday afternoon film to relax in front of. You have to be paying attention to get it. Although my accomplice in film-watching managed to read a book throughout most of it and they still understood it better than me. In fact as we left the cinema they had the cheek to tell me how great it was.

You may think that a person who enjoyed Southland Tales, and Memento might enjoy a thinking-man’s (or woman’s) film, but the films that I have found myself enjoying are those that keep you entertained before the final payoff. Naturally when you deal with espionage and sabotage and a lot of other “age” words, you expect there to be twists in the tale. Unfortunately you feel so abused by the twisting and turning and feel so underwhelmed with the journey, that you really couldn’t give a flying monkey whether she (or he) is a good / bad / indifferent person.


Sadly, I did not enjoy Duplicity. It was labyrinthine in its storytelling and badly portrayed on film. The main characters played by Owen and Roberts were uninteresting and despite an interesting premise, it falls flat. Much more should have been made of Giamatti and Wilkinson’s characters as they felt underused throughout.

That is not to say you might not enjoy it. You may be one of these that enjoy super twisty tales and I envy you for that. For me though Duplicity twisted itself in such a knot, that I felt no compulsion to unpick it!

Rating: 2 out of 5

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