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An Infernal Affair to Remember

Duplicity (2009)

Andrew Schwartz/Universal Pictures

“Duplicity” crams into its two-hour running time enough outwitting, outplaying and outlasting for a season of “Survivor,” just as many international destinations as a season of “The Amazing Race,” and more corporate intrigue than five years of “The Apprentice.” Of course, writer-director Tony Gilroy’s follow-up to “Michael Clayton” is by no means a response to reality television, but it does make apparent why so many casual viewers have jilted the dramatic form altogether during the past decade. You simply haven’t had this much fun at the multiplex in a long, long time.

That’s not all. You have the impossibly glamorous Julia Roberts and the ridiculously suave Clive Owen restlessly working their charm, aided not by special effects but only by snappy dialogue. Indeed, this is Hollywood razzle dazzle in its purest Golden-Age form. Moviegoers can’t help but surrender to the outlandishly implausible plot – former CIA and MI6 agents infiltrating rival corporations à la “Infernal Affairs” – the way rich old men willingly fall prey to gold diggers.

A highbrow meta-moment involving Ms. Roberts and Mr. Owen directing each other over a “table read” seems almost superfluous, as is the film’s central thesis that two chameleons who are incapable of trust (i.e. spies and actors, ha!) can necessarily fall in love with each another. We just want to get lost in this world of movie stars, designer clothes and exotic locales without Mr. Gilroy unnecessarily calling attention to the fourth wall.


Opens on March 20 in the United States and Britain.

Written and directed by Tony Gilroy; director of photography, Robert Elswit; edited by John Gilroy; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, Kevin Thompson; produced by Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent and Laura Bickford; released by Universal Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Julia Roberts (Claire Stenwick), Clive Owen (Ray Koval), Tom Wilkinson (Howard Tully), Paul Giamatti (Richard Garsik), Denis O’Hare (Duke Monahan), Kathleen Chalfant (Pam Frales), Tom McCarthy (Jeff Bauer) and Carrie Preston (Barbara Bofferd).


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