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CIA officer Claire Stenwick and MI6 agent Ray Koval have left the world of government intelligence to cash in on the highly profitable cold war raging between two rival multinational corporations. Their mission? Secure the formula for a product that will bring a fortune to the company that patents it first. For their employers--industry titan Howard Tully and buccaneer CEO Dick Garsik--nothing is out of bounds. But as the stakes rise, the mystery deepens and the tactics get dirtier, the trickiest secret for Claire and Ray is their growing attraction. And as they each try to stay one double-cross ahead, two career loners find their schemes endangered by the only thing they can't cheat their way out of: Love.
For more about Duplicity and the Duplicity Blu-ray release, see Duplicity Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 18, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti, Dan Daily, Lisa Roberts Gillan
Director: Tony Gilroy
» See full cast & crew
Duplicity Blu-ray Review
When Harry met Sally, she drugged him and stole his classified dossier...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 18, 2009
Harmless fluff, bargain bin mainstays, crowd-pleasing cash cows, modern comedies of error, first date fodder... whatever you call them, romantic comedies have abandoned all the things that made the genre darlings of yesteryear sizzle: chemistry, originality and, above all else, honesty. Wit and breezy humor are rare commodities in modern rom-coms; bold, fresh ideas even more so. Blame the genre's steady decline on greedy studio executives and uninspired screenwriters all you want, the simple fact is filmmakers have forgotten how to harness the essence of love, trust, and heartache; how to step outside the predictable, pre-established bounds set by the industry over the last six decades. Sure, independent artists working outside of the studio system have found new and interesting ways to mine the depths of the human heart, but what about dear old Hollywood? Has it lost sight of the very spark it's been so desperate to ignite in its prepackaged productions? Sorry sentimental genre fiends, the answer is a resounding "yes."
Luckily, there are small but promising glimmers of hope; star-studded, genre-defying gems that have rejected Hollywood's dusty framework, coupling fresh storylines with a desire to innovate, experiment, and entertain. Films like Duplicity, a charming fling from Michael Clayton masterminds Tony and John Gilroy that, despite its hyper-realistic spy versus spy setup, offers amusing insight into the trials and tribulations of 21st century relationships.
Meet Ray Koval (Clive Owen), a talented, ex-MI6 counterintelligence whiz hired by a smarmy CEO (Paul Giamatti) to steal secrets from a rival businessman (Tom Wilkinson). Now meet former CIA agent Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts), an icy adversary employed by said rival to keep those very secrets safe from crafty spies like Koval. Oh, did I mention Claire and Ray have a history? As it turns out, Claire was responsible for seducing Ray five years earlier, rendering him unconscious, and swiping an invaluable dossier that cost him his career. A match made in heaven? Love at first sight? Let's just say they aren't on the best of terms. Or are they? Duplicity unfolds in an occasionally exhausting manner (much like this synopsis) revealing mere bits and pieces of the actual plot as its nonlinear story tumbles along. Are Ray and Claire bitter enemies? Naive soulmates? Cautious lovers? Is their pairing a coincidence? Or is someone responsible for their star-crossed reunion? Make no mistake, uncovering these truths is initially a frustrating endeavor, one that forces viewers to find their own bearings long before the Gilroys provide anything in the way of legitimate narrative context.
That being said, the film's oft-times confounding structure isn't just for kicks, or even for priming the various twists and turns that emerge along the way. It has a definitive purpose: offering every member of its audience -- young or old, male or female, single or otherwise -- a chance to quickly and easily relate to its lovelorn protagonists, both of whom struggle with trust issues, identity crises, and relationship woes. To the Gilroys credit, every aspect of the sprawling, he-did-it-she-did-it story, and by extension the entire film, clicks into place, making second and third viewings (as well as the second and third acts) far more rewarding than the first. But Duplicity isn't a rom-com bait-n-switch or a light-hearted spy versus spy comedy (despite sharing characteristics with both), it's a cheeky examination of love in a day and age where truth is an uncertainty; where commitment is only as strong as a lover's whim; and where wealth, status, and individual security readily dictate the terms of any relationship.
While parallels will rightfully be drawn to films like Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Ocean's Eleven, Duplicity forges its own path, providing Owen and Roberts ample opportunity to play against type. Ray is impulsive and shortsighted, taking far more missteps than his confident grin and $3000 suit might suggest. Claire is cold and distant, proudly brandishing the proverbial pants wherever and whenever she pleases. Together, they're spontaneous and calculating, passionate and distrusting; separately, each one questions every statement, motive, and action their shady counterpart makes. They're mismatched yet somehow perfect for each other. Armed with Tony Gilroy's spry dialogue and quickfire exchanges, Owen and Roberts infuse their characters with more humanity than the slippery script sometimes deserves. Then there's Giamatti and Wilkinson, both of whom chew scenery and steal scenes at every turn. Like embittered divorcees, the two squabble and sneer, actively pursuing anything that will cause the other emotional harm. They fight over offspring (in this case profitable ideas), employ other people to deliver debilitating blows, and are more interested in seeing their rival brought to ruin than in actually running a successful company. The seasoned actors earn just as many laughs as Owen and Roberts, injecting their splintered relationship with as much venom and ire as they can muster.
Even so, Duplicity isn't going to appeal to everyone. As much as I enjoyed its winding wares and magnetic performances, I can see how some would consider its script overwrought and its story unwieldy. Your enjoyment will come down to how freely you embrace the film's brisk, biting tone and how readily you buy into its actors' on-screen chemistry. Ultimately, as much as I dug most everything the Gilroys had to offer, filmfans would be wise to rent this one before considering a purchase.
Duplicity Blu-ray, Video Quality
Duplicity features a striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer that revels in Robert Elswit's rich palette and stark shadows. Colors are bold and stable, skintones are warm and lifelike, blacks are absorbing (albeit a bit crushed from time to time), and contrast is vivid. Whether drenched in sunburned oranges or bathed in the turquoise glow of computer screens, the actors look utterly fantastic. Detail is just as rewarding. Textures are exceedingly refined, edges are clean and natural, and delineation is quite revealing. While some shots suffer from smearing (a slow-mo encounter between Giamatti and Wilkinson looks particularly waxy), I suspect the filmmakers, not a technical deficiency or a mysterious application of noise reduction, are to blame in each instance. The image is pristine, sure -- artifacting, aliasing, edge enhancement, and other unintentional digital anomalies are nowhere to be found -- but close-ups and establishing shots are too sharp and precise to indicate any troubling foul play. All things considered, the transfer isn't perfect, but isn't problematic either. Fans and eagle-eyed videophiles should be pleased with the results.
Duplicity Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Duplicity's attractive video transfer is coupled with an equally impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Dialogue is crisp, intelligible, and perfectly prioritized, and whispered exchanges are crystal clear. The LFE channel is rarely challenged by anything other than the film's soundtrack, but it makes its presence known when called upon. Likewise, the rear speakers are relegated to streetside ambience and subtle interior acoustics, but nevertheless create a convincing soundfield that captures the hustle and bustle of New York City, the meandering crowds of Rome, and the quiet chatter of Dubai meet-n-greets. Thankfully, pans are silky smooth, directionality is decisive, and dynamics serve up enough punch and pizazz to match Ray and Claire's spirited interplay. The mix may not be loaded with the sort of sonic power audio junkies crave, but it does work well for the task at hand.
Duplicity Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Duplicity arrives with one special feature: a somewhat dry audio commentary with writer/director Tony Gilroy and editor/co-producer John Gilroy. Anyone who took the time to trudge through the Gilroys' Michael Clayton commentary know the brothers aren't exactly the most entertaining fellows to listen to. Thankfully, their latest chat is more engaging than their previous dud, offering fans a more thorough overview of the production and a more amusing account of the time they spent with their cast and crew. It's not easy to plow through in one sitting without nodding off, but it's a decent addition nonetheless. BD-Live functionality and "My Scenes" bookmarking are included as well.
Duplicity Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Duplicity may have divided audiences and critics, but I found it to be a breezy, entertaining break from the status quo. Better than the majority of romantic comedies currently plaguing the market, better than other lighthearted spy romps in recent memory, it delivers a sharp script, excellent performances, and enough wit and originality to make it stand out from the genre crowd. The Blu-ray edition is just as strong. Granted, a single audio commentary is the only special feature to be found, but Universal's excellent video transfer and solid DTS-HD Master Audio track more than make up for the disc's relatively minor shortcomings. I can't guarantee everyone will enjoy the film itself as much as I did, but, at the very least, it's worth renting. Give it a chance and see if it nuzzles up to you as easily as it did me.
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Duplicity Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - August 25th - August 25, 2009
For the most part, August has been quiet in terms of must-have Blu-ray releases. In this last week of August, that trend continues, but looking over the horizon we see the release of several blockbuster titles, including next week's release of 'Braveheart' ...
• Duplicity Gets Late August BD Release Date - June 23, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that it will release on Blu-ray the thriller 'Duplicity', starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, on August 25, day-and-date with the DVD. Video will be 2.40:1 1080p, accompanied by a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, ...
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