Duplicity is the second film by Tony Gilroy, the longtime screenwriter who made a smashing directorial debut in 2007 with Michael Clayton. You can’t blame Gilroy for wanting to follow that up by doing something fun, especially since he turns out to be just as good with light comedy as he is with heavyweight drama. This super-twisty caper flick is the most purely enjoyable movie I’ve seen so far this year. How nice.
The main characters are ex-MI6 agent Ray Koval (Clive Owen) and ex-CIA agent Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts), whom we first see as operatives hooking up in Dubai in 2003. In the present day, these former spies have both crossed over to the private sector, running security and counterespionage for rival beauty-product conglomerates in New York. Impatient with their small-fry jobs, Ray and Claire dream of crooking their employers out of $40 million and running off to Rome to live in luxurious retirement. Fortunately, the egomaniacal tyrant CEOs whom they work for (Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson) detest each other, and when one of them lets his inner circle in on an imminent product launch that’ll revolutionize hair care, Ray and Claire use their bosses’ mutual hatred to put a long-considered plan into action.