Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Slow Dancing With the Suits (Dissecting Duplicity)

If you’ve seen Michael Clayton you’re ready for Duplicity. Same smart director/writer. This time zooming in on the world of corporate espionage. And as you may have gathered from the trailer this is a much lighter touch than Michael Clayton. What it shares is the same smarts. Director Tony Gilroy has a great eye for casting and rounds out each of the players nicely. There isn’t a throw away part in this film. (Keep your eye out for Thomas McCarthy. He played the reporter with the moral blind spot in The Wire.)

And speaking of small parts and big players, let’s talk about Paul Giamatti. The man can do no wrong. And here he steals the show as one of the two corporate titans facing off against each other. Paul pays Richard Garsik the CEO of a Proctor and Gamble type company. Tom Wilkinson plays his counterpart, Howard Tully the CEO of another similar company.

Needless to say they are at war. Which brings us to The Scene.

In a rainy, blustery day the two CEOs meet on the tarmac of a private airfield.
Jets are parked facing off against each other. Each company, a tight tussle of trench coats and yes men and women surrounding their chief.

Conferring with their subordinates, the two (Paul and Tom) begin to walk towards each other. They meet, they talk. At some point something goes astray. It starts with a poke to the chest. A feeble pushing match begins. Feeble because it’s obvious these two men are used to having others do the pushing. But the shock of physical contact quickly gives way to fury, as the two executives wrestle around in the rain like fifth graders squaring off at recess.

And it all happens in glorious slow motion with nary a single word of dialogue. It’s brilliant, it’s effective and it tells us absolutely everything we need to know about these two characters. Show Don’t Tell indeed.

The best micro moment of this might be the reaction shots of all the yes men and women realizing their bosses are actually touching each other. Gilroy catches the ripple going through the crowd, the split-second hesitancy, the flunkies starting at each other, then sending, pushing one of their own into the breech to pull the two soggy opponents apart.

Love it.

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