Spy movies have this maddening requirement that you pause the movie at critical junctures, use a whiteboard with different color markers to keep track of the plot, its chronology, the various events and how they intertwine so you understand. Duplicity starts five years in the past during the starting credits, then moves to the present, and then flashes back to various points in the past to put things together. Since you figure out pretty quickly that nothing is what it seems, and that every action is bested by the opponent’s action, which is bested by the first action again, you find yourself lost quickly with no incentive to keep track of stuff. All the complexity of the plot goes over your head and you don’t care anymore.
Clive Owen and Julia Roberts star as Claire and Ray, two spies for different government agencies in the past, and now working as industrial spooks for two competing conglomerates. The tension comes not from getting shot or killed for a change, but from the incredibly high stress of being first to market with a new product. Claire and Ray have good chemistry and clever dialog, and the story is funny and captivating, even though I was lost throughout the movie.
There is a young medical genius whose brilliant invention could change the world, and the two companies are trying to steal it from each other in a web of subterfuge. It’s a bit disappointing about American business, where the message is that it really does not matter who invents something, who does something best, who does something cheaper, but rather — who steals the idea first and most effectively. But that’s beside the point.
Duplicity is reasonably good entertainment, I got a few laughs and I walked away glad I have a simpler life than those guys.