Slick, sexy and oh so escapist, Duplicity scores as a caper

For writer/director Tony Gilroy, following up 2007’s Oscar-nominated corporate thriller iMichael Clayton/i with a frothy corporate spy romance might appear to be a gamble.

However, iDuplicity/i, his latest film starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, thankfully happens to be a step in the right direction.

The wonderfully clever opening credits, involving a slow-motion sissy brawl between corporate honchos played by Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson, set the tone for the rest of the movie.

Gilroy clearly wants to mark his own territory in the genre, and he succeeds with style and class. iDuplicity/i will certainly not be held to the same pedigree as iMichael Clayton/i, but its megastar appeal and fresh, intelligent script are enough to give it significant shelf life.

Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, once paired as bitterly feuding lovers in 2004’s iCloser/i, are at the top of their game playing Ray Koval and Claire Stenwick. Both characters may not be too much of a challenge for the naturally sexy and charismatic duo, but there is something especially light and seductive about their chemistry this time around.

They are ex-government agents, the former for MI6 and the latter for the CIA, whose slightly steamy past leads them to team up for a corporate con for 40 million dollars. As two rival corporations, headed by Giamatti and Wilkinson, prepare for a battle over a secret product that would earn them a tremendous fortune, Koval and Stenwick obtain jobs with opposing sides to enact their plan.

To say more would spoil the entertaining twists and turns of Gilroy’s witty, sophisticated script. Owen and Roberts exude infinite charm in their roles, and maintain the electric chemistry they had in iCloser/i.

Their scenes together bring back nostalgic whiffs of such classic spy romances as iCharade/i or iTo Catch a Thief/i, even if iDuplicity/i isn’t as timeless a film. The supporting cast is excellent as well, particularly Giamatti and Wilkinson as desperate, conniving executives.

iDuplicity/i is a perfect escape from the realities of our economic crisis; what can be better than watching two attractive people try to steal money from the filthy rich while still finding time to make love?

With this film, Gilroy continues to pave his impressive path in Hollywood by making films that stay within the realm of mainstream while sneaking in enough intelligence and substance to keep his artistic dignity fully intact.

It’s a smart formula, and as long as it continues to attract big names like Roberts, Owen, and iClayton/i’s George Clooney, Gilroy can hopefully keep providing popcorn flicks that aren’t drenched in blockbuster butter.