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DUAL (2022)

Release Date: 05/20/22 [In Cinemas/VOD/AMC+]

Genre: SciFi/Thriller

Studio: RLJE Films


"A woman opts for a cloning procedure after she receives a terminal diagnosis but when she recovers her attempts to have her clone decommissioned fail, leading to a court-mandated duel to the death."


The concept of the doppelgänger has been explored in film for decades. From Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man to John Woo’s Face/Off and most recently Jordan Peele’s Us, it’s been proven that there are numerous ways to visually explore the duality of man. Not every way can be great though and Riley Stearns’ Dual is proof of that.


Set in a not too distant future where cloning is possible, the film follows a young woman who finds out she’s dying and decides to clone herself so that her family doesn’t have to worry about missing or mourning her. After months of preparing for her inevitable death - and letting her clone slowly take over her life - the woman eventually discovers that her prognosis was false and that she’ll live after all. In this world, however, a clone cannot co-exist alongside the original. To decide who will get to keep living, both must take part in a duel to the death.


I really wanted to love this film. Between the fascinating premise, the clever concept, and the brilliance of the title I expected to fully enjoy it. Unfortunately, I was totally disappointed.


Don’t get me wrong. Some might actually find solace in director Riley Stearns’ clear Yorgos Lanthimos-esque influence. Like many of Lanthimos’ films, in Dual it feels like you’re watching aliens trying to imitate human behavior. However, for a film with such obvious intent to explore what it means to be human, the approach comes across as too farcical.


Now, despite the peculiar performances, I’d like to clarify that I actually did enjoy the acting in this film. It’s not often that an actor is given the chance to play two different roles in the same film, but star Karen Gillan does it effortlessly here. I especially appreciated the way she made it easy to distinguish her two characters from each other. In fact, throughout the film you can tell Gillan is trying to do more with her characters, particularly through the expressions. However, because the script is so dull and only ever calls for her characters to talk or sulk monotonously, there’s literally only so much she can do.


Aaron Paul is also great as the self-defense instructor who is training Gillan’s character for her upcoming duel. While he doesn’t appear until halfway through the film and gets the least amount of screentime, he was the funniest part of the film to me. In just a handful of scenes, including a slow-motion training session and a dance number, he brings more life into this film than the news of the positive prognosis does for the main character. And, for a film that was clearly meant to be an absurdist comedy, that’s surprisingly the most absurd part about it.  


From beginning to end, Dual’s execution fails because it meanders to the point where it falls too far off course from its pessimistic message. The result is a literally directionless mess with almost nothing to say - and even less to show for - that’ll leave audiences split for all the wrong reasons.

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