Pillbox

Twists and turns entangle Duplicity’s plot

Duplicity is an interesting movie combination of Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Ocean’s Eleven. The film, directed by Tony Gilroys, stars Closer co-stars Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, who act as corporate spies working a double life. The film received lukewarm reviews — a 66 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a B from Entertainment Weekly.

Duplicity begins in Dubai at a party at an Embassy where Claire Stenwick (Roberts) seduces Ray Koval (Owen), takes him back to his hotel room, drugs him, steals his Egyptian air defense codes, and leaves without a second thought. When they meet again, five years later, Koval confronts Stenwick about the humiliation from that night and they both reveal that they are former government agents. Koval had enjoyed a 12-year tenure with MI6 as a British government spy, while Stenwick worked as a CIA agent. They’ve both taken similar career paths since then, and are currently working at pharmaceutical companies, Koval at Equikrom and Stenwick at Burkett and Randle.

These two companies are always at each other’s throats, trying to become the first company to launch the next big product. The men running these companies are Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) — who runs Burke and Randle and claims he is on the verge of releasing a revolutionary new creation that has been successfully kept a secret all this time — and Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti) — who runs Equikrom and is well aware of Tully’s “Project Sampson.”

Meanwhile, in Rome, Koval and Stenwick rekindle their romance and seem to be falling in love with each other. The problem is that they think too much alike and Koval never forgets the night that he was Stenwick’s one-night stand, leading to a large trust issue between the two. Nevertheless, the duo decides to double-cross both their unsuspecting bosses by stealing the secret formula from Burke and Randle and selling it to a Swiss company for $40 million. Then they hope to live luxuriously and retire for the rest of their lives. This scheme, however, is not as easy as they had imagined.

The plot thickens as the stakes rise, the tactics get dirtier, and Koval and Stenwick find themselves having to keep not only one step ahead of their bosses, but also one step ahead of each other. Through a number of twists in the plot — like when other co-workers start to suspect something — and the lack of trust in Koval and Stenwick’s romantic entanglement, the movie rises to its surprising ending when exactly who got played is finally divulged.

The movie is categorized as a romantic comedy spy-thriller. However, because there were so many twists and then counter-twists in the plot, it is difficult to keep up with the storyline. Also, because the timeline jumps from year to year, it is hard to recognize exactly when something is happening.

Roberts and Owen have incredible dialogue when they read each others’ spy minds and question the foundation of their relationship. They also engage in some steamy love scenes that give the movie a James Bond-esque feel. Roberts, at 41, took on a role that she had experienced a little in Ocean’s Twelve, but she was all in all a fantastic match for Owen as they trotted the globe in this espionage cat-and-mouse game.

The movie, though, lacked a solid storyline that would have brought all the characters into place. The problem was that it didn’t capture the audience’s attention for the entire duration. There were some parts when something intriguing and new would come up, but because of the lack of attention from before, it’s hard to understand how this new incident fits into the puzzle. Those who enjoy keeping up with the storyline in order to guess what’s going to ultimately happen are going to have a tough time trying to predict this one.

Overall, Koval and Stenwick do learn an important lesson: No matter what happens, they can’t cheat love.