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Dual (2022 Sundance Film Festival); Grade: D+

Strictly Films welcomes you back to more coverage of this years 2022 Sundance Film Festival! Our next film on the block: Dual.

Dual tells a story about a married woman named Sarah (Karen Gillan) whom has received news that she is severely ill, as there is a 98% chance of her not living much longer. In Sarah’s world there is a procedure in which you can clone yourself before you die, so your family and friends don’t have to endure the pain of losing a loved one, so Sarah goes on ahead and gets the quick procedure done. 10 months later Sarah has received news that she’s cured from this illness, which in this world it’s against the law to have doubles of one person, so Sarah tries to decommit the double and continue on life. Unfortunately since the double has now been well acquainted with life, to the point where Sarah’s husband and mother now accept her as their wife/daughter: The double uses her human rights, as Sarah can no longer decommit the double. So in this case: Sarah and her double will have a duel to the death, as they’ll fight to stay alive as the permanent Sarah. Sarah will then train for a year to defeat her double, so she can remain here on earth.

Dual is the third film from film maker Riley Stearns, which he’s following up from his fantastic film in 2019 The Art of Self Defense. So I had a fair amount of hype and anticipation for this film. You can say Dual is not the first film to be about a doppelgänger type film, as we’ve seen in the past from The One I Love or Jordan Peele’s Us, so it’s not technically a ground breaking concept in cinema however it’s tweaked a bit. I missed the first half of an exciting Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers playoff game, as I must say: Dual was definitely not worth missing any time from that game.

Dual as concept is kind of neat despite it not being completely unique. The whole fighting for your death concept against your own clone, in order to stay living on earth… It’s interesting. I think the rules that are set with this kind of ordeal made clear sense, whether it be allowing a clone or how Sarah can’t just eliminate the clone behind once she’s gotten better. I felt the opening t’was very tense and thrilling, it’s honestly the best scene of this film by far as far as entertainment value especially. There are some good comedic moments here and there, Stearns has a good sense of dark humor and in some moments there were some funny moments.

Dual however from a story perspective: Not only is it weak, but also it feels way too familiar with Stearns last project. I felt the film with regards to character development was honestly awful, as our main characters are purely dull and lifeless especially Sarah. It’s hard for me to actually care about Sarah being on this earth, when the film itself doesn’t really care about this character to begin with. Why does Sarah’s life matter enough for me to care if she lives on this earth, rather than her double?! Sarah and her double are EXACTLY the same, they’re both lifeless beings so how am I suppose to care about Sarah?! There’s not much development with this character at all, other than Sarah watches Porn, avoids conversation with her mother, and is a bland wife to her husband… There’s really nothing there and in a story like this, it’s kind of important considering were suppose to care about her surviving this brutal battle.

I say Dual is very familiar with Stearns last film, because it feels a bit too identical with The Art of Self Defense. Both feature a character whom is under appreciated, both feature a character training for combat to fulfill some kind of purpose with regards to safety, and both are dry comedies… Sure the plot line is tweaked a little, but it felt like watching the exact same thing, only The Art of Self Defense is far more superior than this lifeless project. There really isn’t that much progression made by Riley Stearns since his last film, considering the fact both of his films before this were completely different… I’m confused as to why he doesn’t try to make something much more different, than repeating the same thing again?!

The pacing of this film is quite a drag, as the story of this film is quite dull that it has me barely caring about what’s going on. Even the way some lines of dialogue is performed by characters… It just feels awkward, felt like a joke to me. What annoys me the most about this film, is how sequences can be glossed over. The best example is the finale: There are two very important sequences that are completely glossed over. First being a grieving support group for those whom have had a double, the second being what goes on in the woods with Sarah and her double.

The grieving support group had a sequence where the characters would write a letter to their double, as they would read it out loud. Sarah’s double writes one as she’s about to read it out loud… The film skips the sequence entirely?! What could’ve been an impactful emotional moment as Sarah describes it to be, it instead gets entirely skipped as Sarah just tells the audience what happened in that sequence… Why not actually SHOW us what happens so the audience can actually feel something?! Same thing with the woods sequence: What is bound to be an exciting brutal finale, gets completely skipped… WHY NOT SHOW US WHAT HAPPENED?! Like this film is quite bland to begin with, why not actually execute something worth being entertained by other than the first few minutes?! It’s such a boring finale and it really pissed me off.

The reveal… What reveal?! The film tries to play it off as it has this unexpected reveal, but it blatantly obvious to begin with, there was nothing clever about it which proves my point on why they couldn’t just show us the exciting finale.

Overall, Dual was extremely disappointing. I don’t recommend this film, I suggest watching Stearns first two films instead. -Mitch Smietana

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