The Films of Tony Gilroy
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Duplicity (April 16/09)
Tony Gilroy's masterful follow-up to 2007's Michael Clayton, Duplicity follows amorous spies Ray Koval (Clive Owen) and Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) as they illicitly maneuver their way into a corporate showdown between a pair of vicious industry titans (Tom Wilkinson's Howard Tully and Paul Giamatti's Richard Garsik) and subsequently conspire to pull off the ultimate con job. It's an admittedly familiar premise that's primarily employed to exceedingly positive (and downright enthralling) effect by writer/director Gilroy, as the filmmaker has infused Duplicity with an unapologetically dense sensibility that effectively keeps the viewer on their toes virtually from start to finish. Gilroy's comfort behind the camera is evident almost from the movie's opening frames, with the captivating, remarkably entertaining credits sequence setting a tone of lighthearted playfulness that's consistently matched within the remainder of the proceedings. Owen and Roberts' career-best efforts are complemented by a flawless supporting cast that includes, among others, Denis O'Hare, Thomas McCarthy, and Carrie Preston, yet there's little doubt that it's Wilkinson and Giamatti that inevitably provide the film with its most indelible moments. The barrage of impossible-to-predict twists within Gilroy's tight screenplay leave the viewer forced to continually reexamine and question their perception of the film's reality, and it's ultimately difficult to recall an endeavor within this specific thriller subgenre that's so effortlessly able to keep its audience guessing right up until the very last shot. The end result is an unexpectedly engrossing piece of work that undoubtedly cements Gilroy's place as a major new filmmaker, and it's certainly not difficult to envision the movie topping several best-of-the-year lists come December.
The Bourne Legacy
Disappointing as both a Bourne sequel and as Tony Gilroy's followup to the brilliant Duplicity, The Bourne Legacy, which occurs contemporaneously to The Bourne Ultimatum, details the chaos that ensues after the CIA decides to wipe out every trace of a supersoldier program in light of Jason Bourne's extremely public antics - with the film subsequently following one such supersoldier (Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross) as he teams up with a research scientist (Rachel Weisz's Marta Shearing) and sets out to procure more of the medicine that keeps him functioning. It's interesting to note that The Bourne Legacy, which ultimately feels more like a reboot than a sequel, strikes all the wrong notes virtually from the get-go, as filmmaker Tony Gilroy proves hopelessly unable to either infuse the confusing storyline with any momentum or transform the film's central figure into a wholeheartedly compelling protagonist - with, in terms of the latter, Renner's competent yet charmless performance preventing one from sympathizing with (or even caring about) his character's ongoing exploits. (It doesn't help, either, that Gilroy spends an inordinate amount of time focused on Cross' tedious activities in and around a wintry locale.) Far more problematic is the surprisingly tedious nature of the film's narrative, as Gilroy places an aggressive emphasis on Cross' efforts at finding more pills (or "chems," as they're tediously referred to) - with the inherently less-than-compelling nature of such elements exacerbated by a screenplay that's often oppressively talky (ie the first proper action sequence doesn't arrive until the halfway mark!) There is, as a result, little doubt that The Bourne Legacy is littered with lulls that become increasingly pronounced as it trudges along, and although Gilroy has included a handful of semi-compelling interludes (eg Cross and Shearing must escape from a busy pharmaceutical factory), the movie, for the most part, remains far too convoluted and too uninspired to make anything resembling an overtly positive impact. (Gilroy's decision to eschew an expected showdown between Cross and a fellow supersoldier is, in the end, emblematic of the filmmaker's misguided sensibilities.)