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Duplicity: Bright, breezy entertainment



Duplicity is a jet-setting romp that proves to be as bright as it is brainy. Writer-director Tony Gilroy, flush from his Michael Clayton success, retains that film's examination of corporate malfeasance yet replaces the sense of dread with a sense of style. After all, when a movie showcases a Caribbean hotel where rooms cost $10,000 per night, it's clear that the protagonists won't be cut from the same cloth as us po' folks who have to worry about trifling matters like soaring unemployment rates and obstructionist Republican Congressmen.

Indeed, the leads are played by Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, the sort of high-wattage movie stars so glamorous that it's easy to believe even their bath tissues are Armani-designed. She's former CIA agent Claire Stenwick; he's ex-MI6 operative Ray Koval. Having both left their jobs to take lucrative assignments with rival corporations (the company CEOs are played in amusing fashion by Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti), both Claire and Ray end up pooling their talents in order to swindle both companies and steal the formula for a new cosmetic product that will revolutionize the industry. But as they work overtime to ensure they're always one step ahead of their respective companies' key personnel (not a dummy among them), Claire and Ray each wonder whether they can really trust the other person.

If there's a fault with Duplicity, it's that Gilroy relies far too heavily on fastbacks and flashbacks-within-flashbacks to the point that the first half-hour is often impenetrable -- telling the story in linear fashion would have still produced enough narrative twists to keep audiences happily engaged. Fortunately, as the movie continues, plot basics become more digestible, and it all pans out with a climactic "gotcha" that should invoke happy memories of The Sting. Granted, as far as screen couples go, Roberts and Owen are no Newman and Redford, but they're compatible enough to provide Duplicity with the requisite shot of A-list aptitude.

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