Tony Gilroy's 'Duplicity' seems to be getting stellar reviews everywhere I've looked. I'm gonna have to go against the grain on this one.
The film, which stars Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, is an only mildly entertaining, and at times excruciatingly slow romantic comedy with a corporate espionage setting. Owen and Roberts are spies who routinely meet over and over throughout the movie and around the world, each time under different personal and professional circumstances. The film jumps back and forth through time, showing us the evolution of their relationship. They have okay chemistry, but it never feels the way it felt when they were in 'Closer' together. Now that was some chemistry!
'Duplicity' is one of those films in which you have no idea what's going on until the very end, which would be exciting if the film kept your attention all the way through. Instead, 'Duplicity' seems to wander at points, moving at a snail's pace one moment, then hitting the gas with a burst of action the next, only to slam on the brakes and screech to a halt just a little ways down the road. Who's behind the wheel here, the Little Old Lady From Pasadena?!
While the story is centered around Owen and Roberts, the more interesting story involves two corporate CEOs played by Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. A movie just about them would have been infinitely more entertaining. Howard Tully (Wilkinson) is said to have a new product coming out that's going to revolutionize the market and make him a very rich man. Richard Garsik (Giamatti), Tully's arch enemy in the business world, will stop at nothing to find out what Tully is planning.
It's Garsik who assembles a team of ex-spies to find out exactly what's going on over at his rival's company. Claire Stenwick (Roberts) is a mole inside Tully's company, her handler is Ray Koval (Owen). The two act like they've never met, but from numerous flashbacks we know that's not true. What we don't know is why they're acting the way they are.
Like Gilroy's critically acclaimed, Oscar nominated film 'Michael Clayton,' 'Duplicity' unfolds without letting anyone in on what's going on, only to fizzle out with a lackluster ending. People enjoyed 'Michael Clayton' I know, but the old tape recorder in my jacket surprise? Really? I got the same feeling at the end of this film. All this build up only to have the entire film explained to me, because it never did any explaining in the first place? I hate when a character must recite a monologue in order to explain his or her actions? It's that the mark of poor writing and weak fimmaking. Ideally a film should be able to explain itself almost entirely through visuals, if a character has to sit you down for a debriefing, then you have a problem on your hands. Oh, and just in case you missed anything during this tired and worn movie, the last five minutes will spell it all out for you anyway. All in all, this is a dull little movie with a lot of cliches. Fortunately, the technical aspects fare a little better.
The 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer is stunningly strong. Rich detail and color abound. The scene at the beginning of the film with Giamatti and Wilkinson yelling at each other in slow motion on a tarmac in the rain is especially fun to watch. The rain is presented so clearly that in slow motion you can see each individual drop as it falls to the ground. Digital anomalies are kept out of sight for the duration. DNR and edge enhancement aren't present either. This is a clean and clear transfer, free from blemishes that would distract the eye. A nice presentation for a disappointing movie.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack features just as much detail as the accompanying video transfer. Dialogue is presented clearly through the front and center channels with directionality working to perfection. The rear speakers provide ambient noises like cars and the normal bustle of a New York Street. They also carry much of the film's soundtrack when the events on screen become intense. The subwoofer is called upon during these times of intensity to provide the soundtrack with some added deep bass. While 'Duplicity's soundtrack doesn't contain all the action oriented noises like speeding cars or explosions that we've come to expect from espionage thrillers, it does exceptionally well with what it's given. It may not be reference material, but this is a disc that will give your system a run for its money.
You must be joking. One audio commentary and that's it? Really Universal, that's all that you figured would appease us? I'm a tad offended.
'Duplicity' is a slow and at times tedious ride through the world of corporate espionage. I would've much rather seen a film featuring Giamatti and Wilkinson battling it out for the center of the capitalistic world. Instead their story is more of an anecdote. We're supposed to focus on Owen and Roberts who just don't have it this time. The story they're working with is dull, and full of clichés. For Blu-ray folks, the stellar video and audio may just be enough for a rental though.
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