This is obviously some Feminism 101 shit, but how come a lady-spy always has to be boning everyone to get her job done? These days? Still? I know man-spies engage in strategic bonery from time to time, when they feel like it, when the "mark" is a magnificent babe in a bear-fur bikini, but they also sometimes don't. Lady-spies, no such luck. Is there a "seductiveness" section on the CIA entrance exam? What if a lady-spy is a lesbian? What if the dude she has to steal the Egyptian air-traffic codes from isn't Clive Owen? What if he is Rush Limbaugh or the motherfuckin' Eye of Sauron or, I don't know, a baby?!?! I'm just thinking that lady-spies need to unionize or something. Maybe they can seduce a hot union organizer. Think about it.
Duplicity—the new corporate-espionage comedy from Michael Clayton writer/director Tony Gilroy—opens with a lady-spy named Claire (Julia Roberts) meeting and seducing a man-spy named Ray (Clive Owen), then, obviously, drugging him and stealing all his important spy shit (documents!). Thankfully, the film is smarter and more self-aware than this initial little puddle of boilerplate suggests.
Over the next five years (Duplicity unfolds and refolds in flashes back and forward), Claire and Ray strike up a romance, then a scheme to bilk two pharmaceutical giants out of millions so they can retire to a big, cozy, espionage-free love nest forever. Duplicity becomes, equally, your traditional origami thriller of double-, triple-, and quadrangular-crossing, and an exploration of the emotional stress inherent in being one professional liar in love with another professional liar. "Nobody trusts anybody," says Ray. "We just cop to it."
With its repetitive structure and 125-minute running time, the movie frequently drags—attempts to spice up its drab corporate stage with flashbacks to Rome, Dubai, and Miami only almost succeed—and suffers from being stolen by its very own opening credits. It's an amazing sequence: Rival CEOs, played by giants of character Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson (Giamatti's character describes Wilkinson's as "a guy who bought a dump so he could go through our garbage"), brawl in super-slow motion on a tarmac. Eyes roll like rabid animals', fist collides with pudge, and two of the world's most entertaining actors body-slam the pavement in palpable fury. I could have gone home happy right then.