Is Duplicity's Plot A Dupe?

Michael Clayton writer-director Tony Gilroy’s buzzy new Julia Roberts-Clive Owen flick Duplicity lands in theaters Friday; we got a chance to look at it last night, and it’s awesome. But beyond the ringing endorsement a bunch of critics are soon to give it, we had to wonder: is Duplicity‘s plot — in which a former CIA agent (Roberts) and a former MI6 agent (Owen) get hired to be corporate spies for Johnson & Johnson-esque companies — plausible in the slightest?

Turns out it could be. Maybe. Gilroy in an interview with Ugo’s movie blog, seems to think so: “Google ‘competitive intelligence.’ That’s what they call themselves — that’s their euphemism. It is MASSIVE. It is huge — billions of dollars all over the place…It’s like a line from the movie — if you invest $60 million in something, and if for $2 million (and you can get a LOT of intelligence for $2 million, a LOT) if for $2 million, if I can have your $60 million investment…either be stealing it outright, or know how to defend against it, or come up with something that is just like it? I mean…this is happening right now.”

And following his advice, we went down the rabbit hole, taking a look at “competitive intelligence” on the Internet. The Society of Competitive Intelligence — a “global nonprofit” which seems to be some kind of broad-based organization with chapters scattered across the country — has a Web site, and on that Web site, a “Code of Ethics.” Second on that list: “To comply with all applicable laws, domestic and international.”

Bor-ing. Also, it appears the SCIP is just figuring out what Twitter is, and while the movie takes its characters to Bermuda, Rome, and New York, the real-life SCIP is going to… Amsterdam? Unfortunately, as cool as it is to watch, Gilroy’s play on industrial espionage is probably far more entertaining, funnier, and fictitious than its real-life counterpart, which is probably just a bunch of suits reporting to work, trying to figure out the other guy’s trade secrets. One mystery surrounding the film still remains, however: was Paul Giamatti in Skull and Bones?! Conspiracy!