Picks and Pans Review: Duplicity

updated 03/30/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/30/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Giamatti
PG-13 |

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THRILLER
This tricky tale of romance and deception between two corporate spies is tremendous fun, loaded with style and snappy banter. Claire Stenwick (Roberts) and Ray Koval (Owen) spent a sizzling night between the sheets in Dubai five years ago when she was an agent for the CIA and he for England's MI6, though the evening ended with her drugging him and stealing valuable documents. Now, five years later, both toil in private espionage for competing corporate behemoths in Manhattan. It's still high-level spy work, but—and this is one of the movie's best running jokes—what's being protected or purloined is the formula for, say, a new shaving cream or diaper-rash emollient rather than state secrets. Which may be why Claire and Ray, still hot for each other, have no compunctions about planning jointly to double-cross their employers to the tune of millions. But can they trust each other?

Deftly written and directed by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), Duplicity's charm lies in creating a high-stakes game even if nothing of consequence—unless you're a corporate stockholder—is at stake. Roberts and Owen play off each other with flair. She exudes an edgy world-weariness and he—well, he's pure sex on a stick.

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