Michael Clayton, Tony Gilroy’s Oscar-nominated directorial debut, was one of my favorite movies of 2007, and it remains as compulsively watchable as the first time I saw it. I love the way Gilroy built and revealed his characters, the structure and delivery of the dialogue, and most certainly the performances.
I like Duplicity for a lot of the same reasons, just less so. Gilroy’s stepped up his compositions, especially the inspired credit sequence in which rival CEOs (Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti), who will drive most of the plot, pummel each other on an airport runway in slow motion, wildly accentuating Giamatti’s expressive face. On the other end of the film, Gilroy knows how to use a last shot unbelievably well; as much as I love the final shot of Michael Clayton, this gives it a run for its money. A lot of his choices in the film – from shots that allow for the actors’ entire bodies to be in the frame to shots that linger after a scene is over – are also choices I just happen to like. It’s purely subjective, but hey, that’s the line of business I’m in.
And I recognize the biggest reason I’m really digging Gilroy’s directorial career – his choices are wildly in tune with stuff in movies I just dig. I love scenes of actors giving big, elegantly-worded speeches. I like the way actors in his two films deliver the lines. I like the framing. I like the pace. I like reversals, so long as they’re done right, and I like plot- and dialogue-oriented entertainment. And Gilroy does these things very, very well.
Taking a fun premise – a man and a woman, both products of espionage, fall for each other and team up to scam corporations for millions, along the way going back and forth on how far to trust the other – and extending it over years is an inspired move, and some of the film’s best moments deal either directly or indirectly with the toll this takes on Ray (Clive Owen) and Claire (Julia Roberts). That this results in a movie that’s not as much fun as I was led to believe (one comparison to Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise was wildly misplaced), but ultimately an immensely satisfying, often breezily entertaining (but never condescending) espionage-thriller-romance. In the day since I saw this film, I’ve only grown to like it more; I like where this is heading.
Scott can be reached at ScottN_86@yahoo.com