Chemistry blogger SeeArrOh is organizing a Chemistry Movie Carnival this week to celebrate chemistry in movies. I thought I'd talk about the chemistry in the movie "Duplicity". Not just because a silicone polymer played a key role in the movie, but because it the only movie that I can think of where being a chemist added an extra level of enjoyment to the movie. Or in this particular case, an extra level of duplicity.
The movie has more twists than than a α-polypropylene (3/1) single crystal, but the overall gist is that 2 CEO's of rival companies hate each other with the intensity of 2 wolves in the desert fighting over the only rabbit in the county. One has just secretly discovered a revolutionary hair-growing gel, and the other CEO wants to steal it. Enter 2 corporate security professionals, Clive Owen (fabulous as always) and Julia Roberts (so-so as always). These 2 decide to take advantage of their positions to steal the secret for themselves and sell it for bookoo bucks.
After a number of plot twists with people duping and reduping each other to get access to the formula, we finally get to see the secret molecule. I admit that I was greatly disappointed when they showed the structure. It was just a cyclic polysiloxane, something incapable of growing hair. But guess what? I was duped. The fact that the molecule wasn't a hair-growing gel was recognized by the first company. The first CEO had created a whole fakery about it in an effort to draw out his competitor, and it worked beautifully. When the second CEO is informed that his company has successfully stolen the formula, he holds a major press conference to announce the discovery, not knowing that it is fake. One can only imagine the volume of egg on his face that will have to be removed at a later date, and how much that is going to drop the price of shares for his company.
My enjoyment of the movie however, would be less were I not a chemist. The general public didn't get that extra level of unintended duplicity. Here was a movie where Hollywood got the chemistry right, even though my first thought (correctly) was that they got it wrong. I've never seen that before or since, and that make this movie extra special in my mind.