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Film Review: “Dual” Overuses Its Sarcastic Tone to the Point of Annoyance

Written by: Adam Vaughn | April 14th, 2022

Film poster: “Dual”

Dual (Riley Stearns, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.

Starring the potentially powerful Karen Gillan (Avengers: Endgame) and Aaron Paul (Adam), Dual’s heightened-realism story about a woman forced to battle her clone-double to the death seemed it would provide an ample amount of witty humor as well as intense action and violence. In the end, director Riley Stearns (The Art of Self-Defense) manages to lower both expectations by hitting his viewer over the head with an on-the-nose, sarcastic story. He spends far too much time making fun of his own concept to ever fully deliver a valuable message to the viewer.

The film opens with Sarah (Gillan) finding out that she is dying of a terminal disease, to which modern science has devised a perfect solution: creating a cloned version of yourself to outlive you after you die! No sooner does Sarah clone herself, however, that she finds out that, in fact (and for no explainable reason whatsoever), she is no longer dying of her disease. Now, instead of decommissioning the clone, Sarah must battle her clone in a duel to the death, where she trains with the seemingly ruthless Trent (Paul) to ensure her victory over the doppelgänger.

l-r: Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul in DUAL

From the start, Dual utilizes the combination of absurdity and dry humor to create its tone, and initially this helps sell the ludicrous concept of doctors cloning people as a solution to death. But as Stearns moves on, the overall story seems void of any true substance, yielding a rather dull and foreseeable outcome and managing to annoy the viewer with its mockery of itself. Used sparingly, the dialogue is fun, and often intelligent, but after two-thirds of the story has been debunked by its own characters, the film comes across as trying too hard to be witty and falls short of entertaining.

While Dual has an opening sequence that promises a Jordan Peele-esque story of bizarre duality, the overall execution of Stearns’ film gives way to awkward scenes, painfully slow progression, and a film that, after time, becomes too cheesy and conceited to impress the viewer. Dual is a prime example of a film that was better off succumbing to a more action-packed fallout, rather than sticking to wit and even slight narcissism.

Karen Gillan in DUAL

Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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