Duplicity (2009)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V-1 ; L- 2; S/N4. Running time: 2 hours 5 min.

The purposes in the human mind are like deep water,
but the intelligent will draw them out.
Many proclaim themselves loyal,
but who can find one worthy of trust?
Proverbs 20:5-6

The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid has their own foot been caught.
Psalm 9:15

Claire and Ray are lovers, but spying for rival corporations, can they trust each other?

2009 Universal Pictures

Director/writer Tony Gilroy has given us a film that seems like one of those Chinese puzzle boxes.

The more I watched, the more puzzled I became, and yet could not take my eyes off the screen.

Julia Roberts as former CIA officer Claire Stenwick and Clive Owen as ex-MI6 agent Ray Koval are perfect as the duplicitous spies who have quit their jobs so that they can reap the big rewards of spying for two multinational corporations. Matching their acting skills are Tom Wilkinson as Howard Tully and Paul Giamatti as Dick Garsik, the heads of the corporations for which the two agents spy. At the beginning of the film we see these two titans at an airport, their corporate jets facing each other, and the two walking toward each other as their staffs look on. There is no sound, and the ensuing scuffle that turns into a fight is filmed in semi-slow motion. A delightful sequence that sets the stage for what is to come.

The film takes us around the world to Rome, London, the Bahamas, Miami, New York, Cleveland and Zurich, and there are so many flashbacks in time to provide still another piece of the puzzle that my head felt like it was spinning at times. Being spies, and yet also in love (or so each proclaims), neither we nor they are certain as to who is telling the truth and who might be lying. The scheme to steal the formula of a revolutionary hair treatment ointment is worked out by the pair in extreme detail, much of it involving high tech surveilance, communitcation and transmission devices. Our two spies are sure that they have from $35 to $40 million in their grasp, and the thieving head of one of the companies is certain that he has purloined the secret of his rival when they report to him—but sometimes the smart and clever outsmart themselves. Thus this complex piece of light entertainment could be taken as a morality tale, especially when we hear the lovers talk so often about trusting and lying.

For Reflection/Discussion

Spoilers below.

1. What do you think of the four main characters? What has happened to Claire and Ray as a result of their profession? Did you find yourself favoring one of the corperate heads over the other, and if so, which one?

2. Do you think that Claire and Ray are good prospects for marriage? What seems to be missing that is essential for a marriage relationship to work? How do they need to learn that trust is more valuable than the riches they work so hard to acquire?

3. Late in the film each of the lovers says, “Look, I know who you are, but I love you anyway.” How is this a good beginning for them? What do you think they mean by “I know who you are” ? How is this a Christian understanding of the way that God treats us and of how we should relate to each other?

4. What did you think of the way all of the intricate scheming turned out? How is the ending like what is written in Psalm 9:15? Do you think anyone in the film has learned from the experience?