CIA officer Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) and MI6 agent Ray Koval (Clive Owen) have quit their jobs in government intelligence for a chance to cash in on the profitable rivalry between two multinational corporations. Claire and Ray plan to split the profits, but despite their intimate relationship, they can never trust each other, as they infiltrate the companies run by Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) and his hated competitor, Dick Garsik (Paul Giamatti) to obtain the secret formula to a patent with unlimited profit potential.
Review by Louise Keller:
Love and trust is the dilemma when two corporate spies plan the ultimate con. But who is playing whom? Whatever the onscreen dilemma for Clive Owen's Ray and Julia Roberts' Claire, for us, it's a no-brainer. This slick and persuasive crime thriller has so much chemistry and chutzpah; we're hooked from the start.
The opening scene, set during a lavish function at Dubai's US Consulate, grabs our attention as Ray makes a beeline for Claire. Red wine and blue Margueritas aside, we are not likely to forget this first encounter. With the help of split screens, we jump forwards and backwards in time to locations including Rome, London, the Bahamas, Miami, New York, Cleveland and Zurich for more encounters in which their relationship is as confusing and uncertain as the con they are trying to pull off. The less you know about the plot itself the better, except nobody trusts anyone, especially the two central characters for whom the stakes become higher and higher as they deny everything and admit nothing, even in the most intimate situations.
Owen and Roberts are great together as they endearingly navigate through Ray and Claire's insecurities and foibles. Ray is the guy who is not great at remembering names , better at faces, but definitely excels at remembering people he's slept with; Claire is the gal who needs to know the way out of a situation before she goes into it. The mood that writer director Tony Gilroy achieves is not unlike that of Ocean's Twelve; the storytelling has the same kind of zip, humour and energy.
Not everything goes to plan, which adds plenty of tension in the build up to the climax, and we are constantly kept on edge as the relationship wavers, alliances change, as do plans. (I love the scene when Claire has to question Carrie Preston's naïve travel employee whom Ray has seduced - all in the course of a day's work.) Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti play competing, hate-fuelled corporate heads with cutthroat mentalities; it is their security-tight organisations that Ray and Claire have infiltrated. The performances are all terrific and there's a sense of fun about the whole film. But underneath the frivolity and slickness, there's a hard-edged undercurrent of real emotions, which means not only the characters have a stake, but so do we. And it pays off in duplicate.
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CAST: Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Ulrich Thomsen, Thomas McCarthy, Carrie Preston, Wayne Duvall
PRODUCER: Laura Bickford, Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent
DIRECTOR: Tony Gilroy
SCRIPT: Tony Gilroy
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Elswit
EDITOR: John Gilroy
MUSIC: James Newton Howard
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kevin Thompson
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 19, 2009