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Sunday, 19 April 2009


Ray Koval (Clive Owen) works in corporate espionage. His job: handling agents working undercover. But when he gets assigned to handle Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts), the sparks fly from the get-go. It seems they have a shared past, back when he (and she) was spies working for the more traditional spymasters in the halls of government. But she's too far undercover to let it get in the way now, and he's too much of a professional to let it get out of hand. Or so it might seem. For as the pair continue to work on their obvious covert mission - to extract a secret from a beauty products' firm when the secret is so secret all their bosses at the rival beauty products firm know is that there is a secret - through a series of flashbacks we discover that Claire and Ray have an agenda of their own. Though whether that agenda is romantic, business, or yet another layer of double-cross even they don't seem to be sure. Which is most of the fun. Owen now seems to be able to play two types of role (which is one more than most actors): he can play the grim-faced and earnest type, as recently seen in The International, and he can play the funny, slightly rough-edged and dangerous charmer, which he does with plenty of the aforementioned charm here. Roberts sticks with being self-assured and strident but it works for the character, and interestingly she has the more "male" of the two roles: Owen gets to be vulnerable, questioning and uncertain (he also gets to have sex with a travel agent on her desk), while Roberts is the one who keeps it bottled up inside. The story has enough twists to keep you guessing, though why you would want to keep guessing is never really explained, and in the end this is really just a very, very intense piece of romantic fluff.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #449)