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Duplicity (2009)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/25/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/28/2009

Despite the fact that I have no personal stake in a film's profits, I often follow the weekend box-office predictions and results. It's interesting to see what the "experts" think will be a hit, and compare this to the actual ticket tallies. And it never fails that each Monday there is a film which "surprised" these "experts". Sure, sleeper hits arrive every now and then, but these constant surprises lead me to believe that the "experts" don't know what they are doing. Take Duplicity for example. I think that based on the cast, it was expected to do well, but it had a disappointing opening weekend. Maybe that's because the audience wants a good story to go with their stars.

As Duplicity opens, we see industrial spy Ray Koval (Clive Owen) make contact with his new partner Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts). But instead of the clandestine meeting which was planned, Ray launches into a tirade. You see, these two had run into each other years before when he was worker for MI6 (British Intelligence) and she was with the CIA. After a one night stand, she stole sensitive documents from him and disappeared. Now, they are expected to play on the same team...sort of. Claire works in security for a health-and-beauty aid conglomerate which is run by Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). But she's actually a double-agent, as she's also employed by Tully's arch-rival Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti), who has just hired Ray. When Claire learns that Tully is sitting on a revolutionary product, Garsik orders his spy to find out what it is. Meanwhile, we learn about the sordid and complicated past between Ray and Claire and learn that spy-love can be very challenging.

Several years ago, I was given a tour of an assisted living facility by an unusually upbeat woman who would stop every few minutes and say, "Isn't that fun?" Of course, not much of it was fun -- at all. (Especially the laundry room.) I got this exact same feeling while watching Duplicity. This movie has a very smug sensibility and the entire time I could feel it poking me in the ribs and saying, "Isn't that fun?" These former international spies now work for a company which makes lotion. Isn't that a hoot? And when the secret product is revealed, the movie then began to practically punch me in the side -- "Can you believe that's what the product is?! What a hoot!"

Except none of it is a hoot. The movie wants to be intelligent, sly, and high-brow, but it all feels very stale. What the movie finds incredibly absurd and droll simply seems mundane to the viewer. Even still, I got the feeling that if I had seen Duplicity at the local arthouse theater which is frequented by new-age granola yuppies and pseudo-intellectuals, they would have been laughing their asses off. "They're spying on a soap company! Tremendous!"

The film's other plot, the one which deals with the difficulty that these two spies have with their relationship is slightly more interesting. Being spies, they don't trust one another, despite the fact that they may love one another. And their jobs often keep them apart. The problem here is that I never felt that these two individuals even remotely liked each other, much less were in love. Clive Owen is solid in his role, but he's a bit too stoic. Julia Roberts simply wanders through the film and her aloof nature doesn't lend any credence to the fact that she's involved with Ray or her job. Meanwhile, Giamatti and Wilkinson chew the scenery and act circles around everyone else.

Duplicity comes from writer/director Tony Gilroy who made the equally disappointing Michael Clayton. That film failed because nothing ever happens in it. Duplicity doesn't work because Gilroy thinks that things are constantly happening, but in reality, this 2-hour + movie moves along quite slowly. Things pick up in the third act, but not enough to save the movie. I guess that the ending works, but the bottom line is that this is an espionage movie and we knew that someone was going to get screwed over, we just didn't know who. Little did we know that it would be the audience.

Duplicity gets very emotional about pizza on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a mild amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image shows a nice amount of depth and detail. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0m Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While this isn't an effects heavy movie, we do get good stereo effects from street sounds. An audience in the finale delivers great surround sound, as does a helicopter. The in-film music sounds great.

The Duplicity Blu-ray Disc contains only one extra, an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Writer/Director Tony Gilroy and Editor/Co-Producer John Gilroy.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long