Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Movie Log: Duplicty

Tony Gilroy's second film as both writer and director -- after the tense and satisfying Michael Clayton -- is Duplicity, the same sort of story told sideways and with a lighter heart. It's not as successful as Clayton is, in the end, perhaps because Gilroy plays the industrial espionage straight but, in the end, doesn't want the audience to take it all that seriously.

So Duplicity wants to be both a thriller and not a thriller, to wow us with its tricky double-reversals and repeated dialogue, its complicated stutter-step chronology, and its high-wattage movie stars, while at the same time smiling and telling us not to be so serious, to just take it easy.

It's a movie that rewards focus, and so probably played better on a big screen in a dark room; living rooms are much better for movies that don't require tight attention. I, unfortunately, did see it in a living room, and it may not perhaps have gotten my full attention and understanding because of that.

Those two movie stars are Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, who bounce off each other repeatedly as they cross and double-cross everyone in sight (including each other, themselves, their bosses and partners, and pretty much every other character in the movie). They're smart and stylish and very good at their spycraft; their first meeting takes place with Claire (Roberts) working for the CIA and Ray (Owen) on the side of MI6, but the rest of the movie covers the period when they've gone private, working in tight counter-espionage shops for two big personal-products companies (shampoo, deodorant, etc.).

There's no point in trying to explain all of those feints and parries -- to do so would require a diagram, or the original screenplay -- but Duplicity does work its way through a long sequence of scenes that each make the audience go back and reconsider a lot of what they assumed from those earlier scenes. It felt a bit overlong in my living room, though -- it has to push a big package uphill for a long time before the pieces are all in place and it can start running down through the fun parts at the end.

It is a movie for adults about adult things -- greed, lying, sex, ambition, professional pride -- and that is a thrill to see. It's also done well in an era of dumb "adult" thrillers and tedious teen-oriented junk, so it may well be counter-productive to point out that Duplicity isn't as fun or exciting as it should be. But it's true; this is a decent movie, but it's no Michael Clayton.
Listening to: Dylan Champagne - Junk Parts
via FoxyTunes

No comments:

Post a Comment