Duplicity (2009, Tony Gilroy)

When Clive Owen is drugged and scammed by Julia Roberts at the start of the movie, you know they’ll be together a few scenes later. It doesn’t look like the kind of romantic comedy that’s going to artificially keep them apart for eighty minutes followed by a super-romantic get-together at the end, especially after such a confrontational intro to their characters. But when they end up working together – sure enough, a few scenes later – are they going to stay together, or end up tricking each other in a series of unsatisfying twist endings?

Surprisingly, their relationship is real and they stay together through the whole picture, though pretending they hate each other in public. Plot revolves around their counter-intelligence jobs at Paul Giamatti’s huge faux-Proctor & Gamble company, trying to steal a big secret formula from Tom Wilkinson’s rival company, with Roberts as the inside man. Giamatti’s plan is to beat Tom to the patent office and take his product public before he has the chance, and Roberts/Owen’s plan is to let Giamatti think he’s won while they take the formula to Europe and sell it for millions. The Big Twist: Wilkinson and his company’s superior counter-intel program knew everything all along and the formula was a fake.

A very fun movie with classy, classic style and charming acting. Some floaty split-screen montages give the light Soderbergh feeling of an Ocean’s Eleven sequel. Opening title sequence featuring a slow-motion airport-runway throwdown between the two CEO’s sets the comic tone. Chronology-juggling gradually, effectively reveals the depth of Roberts and Owen’s relationship and their scam, seems more purposeful than the chronojuggling he did in Michael Clayton. Same producers, cinematographer (Robert Elswitt, There Will Be Blood), editor (the director’s brother) and composer (James Newton Howard) as the previous movie. I am already looking forward to whatever Gilroy does next. Critics would disagree, judging from the rotten tomatometer, and Katy thought it was just pretty good.