DUPLICITY is a smartly crafted, expertly acted, exquisitely directed exercise in smoke, mirrors, and greed. Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, whose MICHAEL CLAYTON was a tale of corporate expediency and redemption, his new film returns to the world of corporate skullduggery with the same sharp character studies, the same resignation about people sinking to their lowest levels, but this time out he infuses the story with a sense of black comedy that heightens the absurdity of overweaning greed. Take the scene played out under the opening credits, in which, to the strains of soothing music, the heads of the two corporations that will figure in the story go at each other with their fists with all the abandon and passion of eight-year-olds on the playground. Which is not to say that DUPLICITY is any less sharp, on the contrary, it demands an astuteness in its audience that is richly rewarded.
They are ex-government spies, she CIA, he MI6, who have moved into the private sector as corporate counterintelligence operators. They also have a history stemming from a sultry 4th of July party at the American consulate in
Five years later, they find themselves working for the same corporation in
Also good are Roberts and Owens. She hard-boiled, hard-edged, and flashing that million-dollar smile with a cynical calculation that is breathtaking. He equally tough, equally suave, but with a tiny part of himself that is still capable of being gobsmacked. Or is he? The biggest delight here is the way these two say what they know their prey, each other, and the audience, all want to hear, and then leave them happy to have gotten bamboozled (or were they?) by this crackling dialogue that is a wonder of clever misdirection. Supporting them in sublime fashion are Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti as the corporate masters, the former smooth, the latter not so much, but both effortlessly ruthless.
DUPLICITY revolves around trust, lust, and double-crust pizzas.