Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Duplicity" (2009) - Movie Review

Any con film is a test for a screen writer. Because the writer knows the game and instead of hurrying up in telling it fast, it needs an uncanny way of putting it such that it segues. As the trick of magic in “The Prestige”, it is a play of fooling wherein the audience needs to be enthralled to be fooled and laugh with the ingenuity of the magician. Concealment is allowed if it is put in such away that we are not insulted by it. “The Sting”, “Ocean’s Eleven” are a play of those and win its audience with a great cheer and applause. “Duplicity” is not a great cheer but a smart con film which would have sounded as the twist of the twists on paper. It always lets us know when we want us to know and finally when the rug is pulled under may be we are not as thrilled as they want us to be. Still it is charming. Why? Because it has two dazzling players for its tango and their chemistry and the paranoid doubts filled in their relationship makes it lovable. Diplomatically mushy but lovable.

Two spies have fronted a con far ahead and deep in the undergrounds of the corporate battle front, which is between two CEOs ready to kill each other. One being Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) and the other Dick Garsik (Paul Giamatti). The enmity of them has come to hands and knees as the title roles up with their super slo-mo fight, that we get it without bullying, sarcastic and raunchy cussing at each other, they wrestle. Their business strategy is of such secrecy and clandestinity that they hire ex-spies to get their security tight and sink below the levels of cheapness beyond our imagination. They monitor, track, steal, divert and do ultimately the sickest imagination possible without bloodshed in this case. Gilroy is pretty careful in that aspect to not migrate to his previous film “Michael Clayton”.

The spies are played by Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. Their first meet ended in bed while the other drugged to get the information. Remember they are spies. While we think about Owen’s Ray being sloppy, we would understand why he followed his instincts and cross the line of spy rules once they formulate plans and sustain their relationship as the film furthers. The acts are revealed step by step going back in time to piece the puzzle so that we only know the information we need for say the next twenty minutes and then comes the next flash back. Like this it keeps us on bay not irritably.

Obviously the plot is convoluted and one can hardly imagine the turmoil, coincidences and the time machine they would have needed to foresee their plan perfectly. The formula for the con film is make it bite its own tail many times and of course make sure the audience do not realize it. The thing about “Duplicity” is the cleverness of the twists. While I called most of it, I loved where they were going. It is like unpacking a gift which you know and love to have. In that the script works sweetly and we deliciously slip in to the sips of balanced concoction of smirks and plays.

Each while being in the plan together working as a team always encircle with trust issues. Both acknowledge it but it is like a constant thought process which they cannot stop. This acknowledgment only worsens as it gives a free pass to stretch out the extreme plausibilities of one screwing over the other. Each are afraid of cheating in their con and still the test of it gets them all along through the end. Their nature of the trust in the shambles and liking them after it reveal how much they want each other, or may be this is a game to get the final lot by themselves. You never know.

Clive Owen does something different. Not in acting but in shaving regularly for once in his films. Julia Roberts does her usual thing which is to dominate the screen and her other half with star power. But Clive Owen would be the only one to withstand it like the manliness he is known for. He takes the hit and falls ground with a hard smile and gets up with mud stubble to take the lady back to his place. This affinity gets the spark going on between these couple forming the story.

Tony Gilroy has the last laugh though. He would have been a contended film maker seeing his work. But why the feel of being enjoyed and not completely fulfilled encompasses us. The finishing which is the rug pull off is totally suspense, not cheating and no cheap tricks. It is a clean pull and we buy into it. We never look back but why there is a sigh that it could have been a little better. May be we have always seen the winners ahead and want the players out of the con safe. May be the reflection of the star images have make us to root for the couple in winning their fortune and live happily ever after. They do win but a film like this have always played the material gain over emotional. Gilroy wants that to cross barriers and it does. You will like it for sure but whether it would be the memorable fun ride needs sometime to think over.

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