Fizzy fun in the world of spies

2009-06-01 00:00


IF you’re a fan of Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, or you enjoy the fun and games of the BBC Entertainment series Hustle, then you’re going to love Duplicity.

Director/screenwriter Tony Gilroy returns to the world of corporate espionage that he portrayed so brilliantly in Michael Clayton, but this time he’s opted to make something much more fun.

So what’s it all about then? In a nutshell, Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) and Ray Koval (Clive Owen) meet in Dubai where Koval, an MI6 agent, gets seduced, drugged and robbed of some secret codes by the lovely Stenwick, who works for the CIA.

Five years later the pair meet up again in New York and when Claire pretends not to know him, Koval tells her bluntly that he rarely forgets the face of a person he’s slept with.

Things get even more tense when they discover they’ve both left their government jobs and are working for the same company, Omnikrom, which has hired Koval to run its field agents, including Stenwick, who has been placed inside the counter-intelligence department of rival firm, Burkett & Randle, as a mole.

But you soon learn, via flashbacks, that things are not quite as they seem. Koval and Stenwick are actually having an affair and only signed up for this corporate spying gig to make themselves a wad of cash.

Their plan is to get their hands on a market-changing product and then sell it to the highest bidder. Trouble is, while they might fancy the pants off each other, they don’t trust each other an inch.

That mistrust lends an interesting dynamic to their relationship and allows the two leads to enjoy some great banter, which reminds you of the verbal sparring between the likes of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in the films of the studio era — although, perhaps not quite in the same league.

Roberts and Owen get great support from the rest of the cast, most especially Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) as industry titan Howard Tully and Paul Giamatti (Sideways and television’s John Adams) as buccaneer CEO Dick Garsik.

The pair really sink their teeth into their respective roles and I have to admit to wishing they had a bit more screen time.

Duplicity is also gorgeous to look at, thanks to the mastery of cinematographer Robert Elswit (Oscar winner for There Will Be Blood).

But I think its main strength lies in the fact that it never tries to take itself too seriously.

Instead it’s a bit like a glass of champagne — fizzy, bubbly and a lot of fun, so sit back and enjoy.

*** Estelle Sinkins

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