In DUAL, writer/director Riley Stearns takes advantage of the dual/duel homonym to make an original, creative sci-fi film that takes place in the near-ish future. Technology has reached a point where terminally ill patients can opt-in to clone themselves so that their deaths will be easier on family members. The clones live with the patient to learn their mannerisms and interests until the patient passes. However, if the patient remarkably recovers from their illness and the clone has been “alive” long enough to establish their own life, the two have to dual, in a fight to the death. The winner gets to take over their life.
And that is where we find Sara (Karen Gillan), a woman with a terminal illness that is told she is 100% going to die—well, 98% with a 2% margin of error. She has a withdrawn relationship with her mother and long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, but hopes her clone will be able to help fill the void left in their lives when she passes. But of course, nothing goes to plan and when she realizes she may not be dying after all and that her loved ones may love her clone more than her, she decides to get ready for combat.
The best thing about attending film festivals like Sundance is that I get to see movies like DUAL, which are impressively original and not the typical formulaic Hollywood properties we have seen before. Stearns’ script is risky, smart, and unpredictable, always leaving the audience to wonder what Sara or the double would do next. There were a few times that I was a bit confused by the rules governing the cloning process and had the luxury of rewinding to make sure I understood, but maybe that was more of a problem with my Festival fatigue than the script.
Karen Gillan may be a Marvel superhero, but I can also always count on her to choose interesting lower-profile projects (OCULUS), which is the main reason I added DUAL to my Sundance schedule. Gillan is able to bring a distinction to her identical characters in the most subtlest of ways, which is even harder due to the intentionally staccato nature of the dialogue. Aaron Paul is a little wasted as Sara’s combat Mr. Miyagi, but with a movie as original as DUAL I totally understand why he would jump on board. And honestly, if his presence will bring more eyes to interesting content like this, I am all for it.
DUAL is going to be one of those hidden sci-fi gems people discover on a streaming service and tell all of their friends to watch. It is a film that invites fan theories and encourages discussion after the credits roll. I know I spent a lot of brain power developing my own theories on who from the world may be a double themselves based on some of the strange, deadpan dialogue. But that’s an article for another day.
My Review: B
**Photos in this post are courtesy of the Sundance Institute**