April 15th, 2022
STARRING: KAREN GILLAN, AARON PAUL, BEULAH KOALE
DIRECTED BY: RILEY STEARNS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The concept of duality, the battle between oneself, or the internal struggle that we all have within ourselves is something that fascinates me. It’s also been a major theme that directors have dissected for a long time, from Ridley Scott in Alien: Covenant, to Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation, or the groundbreaking work of Ingmar Bergman with Persona, we are always fighting with ourselves and seeing ourselves in other people. In Riley Stearns new film, Dual, he is asking if you would make a second version of yourself and if you had to, would you kill that version of yourself if it meant your own survival? I wouldn’t call his new film perfect by any stretch, but Dual does have a lot of interesting ideas, which fits into a blend of science fiction, dark comedy, and drama. There are two sides to a movie like Dual. Some of it’s fascinating. Some of it never works. And I end up right in the middle.
The concept and tone of Dual is similar to Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster. It’s a distant future and our main character is Sarah (Karen Gillan). She has been separated from her boyfriend Peter (Beulah Koale) for some time now- work or pandemic reasons- and when she visits the doctor for her yearly checkup, she finds out she has a 99.9% chance of dying. It’s a terminal condition. With this news, she opts for a procedure known as “replacement”, where a clone is created, lives with you, meets all your friends, family, studies you, and eventually takes your place after you die. Fortunately for Sarah, 10-months later she finds out that her disease is in remission, but now due to a law, two of the same person cannot live, therefore a court mandate forces a duel to the death. Sarah must now prepare to fight “Sarah’s Double”, in preparation for something she never saw herself capable of, with a twist that Sarah’s own family has grown to like the other Sarah more. It’s not a winning situation for either person named Sarah where two will enter and only one will leave.
Similar to the concept, what works and does not work for Dual is the style of movie that Riley Stearns likes to make. What never clicked for me was the cadence of dialogue, which is a part of the characters having a lack of emotion, and a future that is void of any empathy. It’s similar to what M. Night Shyamalan’s characters sound like in Old, but here it’s an obvious choice of Stearns style of storytelling. The second act involves Sarah connecting with Aaron Paul’s dual-fighting expert trainer, Trent. He’s a mix between karate master and weapons specialist, as their relationship develops as a funny play on quid pro quo, where Trent teaches her how to fight and she teaches him how to breakdance. It’s before and after the training where Dual finds itself, not that the relationship isn’t enjoyable, it just feels like two separate kinds of movies being made.
In theory there are a lot of things to love about Dual, the originality from the mind of Stearns, but especially the pair of performances by Karen Gillan. The Guardians of the Galaxy star has been stepping out of her shell with The Bubble and this, but here she highlights an ability to fully develop a character. Matching that with Stearns unique brand of narrative, the two feel like a perfect pair, hopefully making more movies with a better outcome.
It ultimately comes down to the themes and inventive concept working more than the final product in Dual. It captures a natural ground level style of science fiction that I typically love, with nothing updated from a visual sense, no flying cars, but a new way that science can take care of humans dealing with emotions. That seems to be where we are headed, a world that feels incredibly cold on the inside, unable to care for those that might die, unable to be bothered with the pain that will come from losing the ones we love. It’s all of those themes in Dual that I found absolutely fantastic. That unemotional feeling is a major part of the narrative but at the end it’s also what held me back from loving everything about it. There’s always two viewpoints and Dual had me seeing double.
DUAL IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND APRIL 15TH, 2022
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady