Time: 94 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, offensive language, sexual themes & content that may disturb
Karen Gillan as Sarah/Sarah’s Double
Aaron Paul as Trent
Theo James as Robert Michaels
Beulah Koale as Peter
Director: Riley Stearns
Upon receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah opts for a cloning procedure to ease her loss on her friends and family. When she makes a sudden and miraculous recovery, her attempts to decommission her clone fail, leading to a court-mandated duel to the death. Now, she has one year to train her mind and body for the fight of her life.
I was interested in Dual ever since I heard that it was the latest movie from Riley Stearns. I hadn’t seen Faults, but I liked The Art of Self-Defense, and was intrigued what he would make next. I checked it out without seeing a trailer, only knowing going in that it involved two copies of Karen Gillan, and co-stars Aaron Paul. It’s nowhere near as good as The Art of Self-Defense but on the whole, I liked Dual.
From the beginning, Dual establishes itself as being set in a somewhat futuristic world, with the practice of cloning yourself being a thing that some people openly do. So this setting makes this Stearns’s most ambitious project so far. Much of the movie feels unnatural and off kilter, especially with the dialogue, and not everyone will go along with this style. It’s almost like a mix between The Art of Self-Defense and a Yorgos Lanthimos movie. However, I liked that tone. There’s a lot of dry and darkly comedic writing, effective deadpan delivery, and a mix of tones. It is funny but there’s also a sadness and bleakness to it, especially with a fear of being replaced or abandoned. There’s definitely a lot of elements with potential, but some aspects could’ve been better. In some ways it feels caught between this off kilter tone and a more grounded natural one, and I think it could’ve leaned towards the former. Most of all though, I don’t think it lived up to its potential. It lost steam over time and is really lacking in the third act, particularly with the ending. The end is rather underwhelming and isn’t that interesting, despite the potential from the rest of the movie.
Karen Gillan gives very committed performances as the lead character and her twin. There are some issues with her performance and character though. There are times where the character is supposed to be emotional and it doesn’t really hit. Sometimes the performance Gna be a little too cold when the film sometimes calls for humanity. Some of the writing doesn’t help, there isn’t a lot of complexity to the character. Still, Gillan is good in her parts. The supporting actors play their parts well, but the standout was Aaron Paul as Karen Gillan trainer. He knew what kind of movie he was in and delivered some great deadpan comedy, some of the funniest scenes was his. He’s definitely a highlight of the film.
The direction of Riley Stearns is on point and is in line with his writing style and tone. It’s very well shot, and it benefits from a great and tense score from Emma Ruth Rundle.
Dual is a little disappointing considering the talent involved, and doesn’t quite live up to its potential. However it’s still a decent and effective enough dark comedy, with nice deadpan humour and good performances from Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul. If you liked any of the past films from Riley Stearns, I think it’s worth checking out.