DuplicityDirected by Tony Gilroy (Universal, 2009)
They don’t make them like this anymore. They try often enough, but only once in a blue moon do they get the magic right. Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity is two parts screwball comedy, one part caper film, and a dash of light espionage shaken together in a cinematic cocktail that would please Cole Porter and James Bond.
Imagine Julia Roberts and Clive Owen filling in (very nicely indeed) for Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in a fast-talking, role-reversing comedy about the war between the sexes.
Then have Ms. Roberts and Mr. Owen reprise a very cool Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen matching wits in The Thomas Crown Affair, trading bedroom barbs and martinis like a pair of (maybe) star-crossed lovers.
And just for good measure, cast this lovely couple in a 007 film where Owen’s James Bond is in real danger of being taken game, set, and match by Roberts’ very smart, sassy, and sexy CIA operative.
The multiple pleasures of this cat-and-mouse game flow mostly from the sparks generated by Roberts and Owen, as pleasing and cagey a pair of double- and triple-crossers as we have seen in a very long time. Clever and cute as they are, you can’t help wanting them to get away with their caper, but find yourself wondering if either of them can be trusted not to betray the other.
So underneath the comedy and caper is the old mystery and romance of love itself, and the real adventure in this film is not so much about whether they’ll get the goods, but whether they’ve got what it takes to live happily ever after with each other.
To be a great spy or thief you have to be able to lie, cheat, and steal—and to make sure you are not the sucker being lied to, cheated, or robbed. But to be a great lover, you have to be willing to be made a fool of, to risk trusting someone, and to count on them to show up. That’s not always the clever move. But it’s the right one.