New on DVD/Blu-ray from XYZ Films!
Directed and written by Riley Stearns.
Starring Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale, Theo James, Elina Jackson, Maija Paunio, Rea Lest, June Hyde, Kristofer Gummerus, Nico Siekkinen, Jani Siekkinen, Elsa Saisio, Remu Valisaari, Minea Valisaari, Amira Khalifa, Andrei Alén, Aram Tertzakian, Darren McStay
Find out more about this film here!
Set in the near future, Sarah (Karen Gillan) finds out she has a terminal disease and decides to undergo a program to make a clone of herself to ease the suffering of those around her. But after the clone is made, Sarah goes into remission. Because no two people can exist at once legally, a law is passed to have Sarah fight her clone to the death in one year. The winner gets Sarah’s life. With a newfound determination, Sarah hires a self-defense coach, Trent (Aaron Paul) to teach her how to fight and kill her opponent. But as the day grows near, Sarah begins having doubts as to whether she really wants to go through with this gladiatorial battle.
Yes, the concept is ridiculous. In no way would it make your loved ones feel better to have a clone of you around reminding them of how they’ve lost the real you. It’d be like stuffing your dead animal and setting it up in the living room to pet every now and then. But people actually do that and if that’s the case, maybe some kind of batshit crazy person might agree to do what Sarah does in this film. Granted Sarah is not exactly all there to begin with. She’s a somewhat robotic, somewhat neurotic basket case who rarely leaves her apartment, is very particular about everything, and basically lives a very secluded lifestyle, despite the fact that she has a boyfriend, Peter (Beulah Koale) who constantly goes on business trips and most likely is having an affair with his assistant. Gillan plays up all of these quirks, but honestly, I don’t know if this is simply her demeanor or that she kind of finds herself typecast in these robotic roles. I never saw her on DOCTOR WHO, but Gillan’s performance as Sarah is very similar to her role as the vengeful blue cyborg Nebula from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Either way, whether this is kind of her thing or if she is just played a more nuanced version of Nebula, GIllan really portrays an interesting and downright peculiar character in DUAL.
For the most part, this is kind of an irreverent comedy. It kind of understands that the situation Sarah finds herself in is kooky, and while everyone plays things straight, the comedy emerges often. I found myself surprisingly amused by this offbeat situation Sarah finds herself in and especially the way she reacts to it. After immediately finding out she has a terminal illness, Sarah’s only response is “Why am I not crying about this?” Though she may play someone who may be on the slightly autistic side but most definitely is on the quirky side, Gillen makes Sarah likable. I couldn’t help but root for her to gain the confidence and skill to reclaim her life.
Part of the fun is seeing Sarah’s double acclimate all too well into Sarah’s life. Her boyfriend likes Sarah’s double more. Her mom even seems to like her better. While Sarah is focused on beating her double, she begins losing the life she had, which is kind of a good thing because it was quite a miserable life. Seeing this transformation in Sarah is subtle, but Gillen really fires up the nuances to make these little changes sing out. This basically is a movie about a wake up call. It’s a story about a person finding out how to appreciate life.
Adding to the quirkiness is Aaron Paul’s training as Trent. He is training Sarah to murder someone and the matter of factly way he teaches her to kill in various different ways and harden herself to do so are absurd and extremely darkly humorous. Paul has had the misfortune of being slightly typecast after BREAKING BAD, but this performance, which is equally off kilter as Sarah, shows that he can do much more than simply say “Betch!” all the time.
I found the ending of DUAL to be tragically poetic and outside of the norm. It really resonated with me and speaks to how good the character of Sarah really is. While it suggests a big bombastic battle—one was shown at the beginning where a clone and the original go head to head with various weapons on a football field with a crowd watching, the end is much less spectacular, yet resonates so much more. Walking away from DUAL, I felt uplifted and deflated all at once. It’s a sheer tragedy, as someone has to die, but the way it plays out is all together brilliant, shocking, and heartbreaking. I look forward to seeing Gillan in more movies as I think she is a quirky actress who doesn’t go for typical roles. And you should look forward to seeing DUAL, a totally bonkers, but subtly poignant story about claiming ones live as your own. See this weird little sci fi flick. I think it’ll surprise you.