Offering a unique blend of crime, comedy, and romance, Duplicity weaves a thrilling web of intrigue and deceit as two former government agents apply their unique skillset to the world of industrial espionage. Once trusted intelligence operatives for their respective governments, Ray and Claire now work as corporate spies for rival companies, each on the brink of developing a revolutionary new product.
After a seemingly chance encounter reunites the former lovers, they decide to partner to intercept industry secrets worth millions of dollars, planning to identify an independent buyer and reap the profits for themselves. The pair can’t seem to carry out their plot without reuniting old passions, and this adds an extra layer of uncertainty to an operation were trust is of the utmost importance. But as financial and romantic motivations collide for two individuals who have built their careers on deceit, can either really be trusted?
Presented by Universal Pictures and Relativity Media, Duplicity tells a story of high-stakes deception punctuated—and complicated—by its conspirators’ persistent romance. From its critically acclaimed writer-director to its meticulously crafted visual style, here are five reasons why Duplicity is worth watching.
The creative mind—and eye—of Tony Gilroy
Each year, the financial fallout of corporate theft totals between $50 billion and $100 billion. This massive cost has generated the need for both defensive and offensive intelligence divisions within many major corporations. Drawing on knowledge gleaned from several of his earlier film projects, filmmaker Tony Gilroy combined the worlds of business and espionage to present the high-stakes world of industrial intelligence.
Tony Gilroy is well known as the writer and director of the 2007 crime drama Michael Clayton, which deals with themes of business ethics and deceit as a “fixer” for a corporate law firm, portrayed by George Clooney, attempts to hold together his firm’s defense of a chemical company accused of illegal pesticide use. Although Michael Clayton was Gilroy’s first directorial outing, it followed decades of successful screenplays that included not only Armageddon (1998), but also The Bourne Identity (2002) and its subsequent sequels, which present an amnesiac man’s action-packed struggle to uncover his ties to a now-hostile government agency.
Gilroy’s research for Michael Clayton and The Bourne Identity led him to discover that many former intelligence operatives make the transition to corporate espionage. While drawing on insight from his earlier projects, Gilroy adopted a far lighter tone for Duplicity, seeking to combine elements of a screwball comedy with the intriguing twists of a crime thriller. At the same time, he cuts from the cloth of romantic comedies to present a film as multidimensional as its deceptive main characters.
Its unique narrative style
As Ray and Claire carry out their conspiracy in the present day, a series of flashbacks gradually reveal the origins of both the plot and their romantic relationship. In this way, Gilroy gradually unveils new details regarding each characters’ plans and motivations, with certain repeated conversations taking on new meaning as their full context comes to light. This narrative structure presents an exciting take on the traditional crime caper. Just as the film’s main characters wrestle with the matter of whether or not to trust one another, viewers remain in suspense with the knowledge that each scene may not be a complete representation of the facts.
Duplicity stars two globally prominent stars of the silver screen. The recipient of a Best Actress Academy Award for the 2000 drama Erin Brockovich (2000), Julia Roberts has won over countless audiences with performances in Pretty Woman (1990), Closer (2004), Notting Hill (1999), and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), among numerous other critically and financially successful films. In Duplicity, she plays Claire Stenwick, a former agent for the CIA, while Clive Owen stars opposite as former M16 operative Ray Koval. A widely recognized star who co-starred with Roberts in Closer, Owen is also known for headlining films such as Children of Men (2006), Inside Man (2006), and the 2004 adventure drama, King Arthur (2004).
As it presents the various rendezvous enjoyed by Ray and Claire throughout their years of international espionage, Duplicity takes the audience on a world tour of several exotic locations. The crew began principal photography in Manhattan, where landmarks including Grand Central Station, Central Park, the Lever House, and the Chase Manhattan Bank Building provide the backdrop for the main characters’ corporate dealings. After wrapping up production in New York, the cast and crew traveled to Paradise Island in the Bahamas and Rome to film several of the movie’s international scenes.
Attention to detail
Duplicity’s production team went to great lengths to develop a coherent and meaningful visual style for the film. According to production designer Kevin Thompson, Tony Gilroy’s skills as both a writer and director allow him to clearly articulate his cinematic vision, and this translated to well-developed motifs throughout the film. The two rival companies that Ray and Claire are attempting to con—Burkett & Randle and Omnikrom—received design schemes that reflect their respective corporate cultures. While the Burkett & Randle headquarters features clean, stark designs of blue and white, Omnikrom is recognizable by its layered textures of red and gray, indicative of its innovative high-tech atmosphere.
Similarly, costume designer Albert Wolsky—a two-time Academy Award winner and longtime collaborator with Julia Roberts—sought to match Tony Gilroy’s vision for Ray and Claire’s respective styles while coordinating with the film’s color schemes. Gilroy, Wolsky, and Thompson all collaborated to develop color palettes that flowed from the costumes to the set, also basing their designs on the time period and location of each scene. As Duplicity presents a conspiracy traversing several years and nations, it employs neutral blacks and greys to reflect the present day corporate world, while Dubai, for example, is a summery world of brighter tones and neutral beige.