dir-scr Tony Gilroy
with Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, Denis O'Hare, Wayne Duvall, Tom McCarthy, Kathleen Chalfant, Khan Baykal, Rick Worthy, Oleg Stefan, Carrie Preston
release US/UK 20.Mar.09
09/US Universal 2h04
Spy vs spy: Roberts and Owen

wilkinson giamatti o'hare
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Duplicity Seductive and playful, this corporate espionage thriller has a breezy attitude that keeps us thoroughly engaged through all of the twists and turns of the plot. And it helps that the characters actually get more interesting as it goes.

Ray (Owen) is an ex-MI6 agent who now works for a New York bio-tech monolith, spying on the competition, where Claire (Roberts) is his ex-CIA counterpart. But these two have a history, and it very soon becomes apparent that they're up to something. The question is whether their bosses (O'Hare and Duvall) are in on it too. Or maybe their bosses' bosses (Giamatti and Wilkinson). Whatever, everyone is hiding secrets and sneaking around, showing one face to the public and another in private. No one trusts anyone.

For his follow-up to Michael Clayton, Gilroy wisely chooses a much more relaxed jaunt of a movie. but there are some similar themes at work here, most notably the way he gives his cast such layered roles to play with. These are people who are quietly gripped by nerves but extremely confident when they need to be. Or maybe that's just what they want you to think, since they're all overachievers with paranoia issues. But the key fact is that they tend to forget that there's always somebody who's smarter than they are.

In other words, there's rather a lot more to this film than first meets the eye. While in many ways this is a superficial, jazzy caper in the vein of Ocean's Eleven, there's rather a lot more to the characters as the story progresses. The maze of the espionage and counterplotting ("a total corporate deathmatch") feels like it should be impenetrable, but we never get lost. And with slinky camerawork and witty directorial touches, Gilroy lets personality flaws and private obsessions emerge beneath the blustering, hilarious dialog.

All of this gives the cast plenty to play with. Roberts and Owen have terrific on-screen chemistry full of prickly banter, sly glances and even a few moments of surprisingly soulful interaction as romance starts to mess with their plan. Meanwhile, Wilkinson and Giamatti are fantastic as control-freak CEOs prowling around the story's margins; from their silent, rain-soaked opening brawl to the snaky conclusion, they hit every note perfectly.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 12.Mar.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall