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‘Dual’ (review)

There’s something amiss with the characters in writer/director Riley Stearns’ Dual.

Set in a very near future, clones exist.

And although generally illegal, a person can acquire a clone knowing that they are dying, as a means to provide comfort for their family and friends when the clone replaces them after they pass.

Cloning is expensive, but there’s a silver lining; the clones themselves are responsible for any outstanding payments after their original passes.

If for some reason the original doesn’t pass away, the clone will be decommissioned.

In some instances, the clone can invoke the 28th amendment which forces the original and their double to dual to the death also providing entertainment to an audience of bloodthirsty viewers.

The film opens with such a scenario, providing a small cameo for actor Theo James facing off against his doppelgänger to the death, establishing the near futuristic scenario depicted in the film.

We then meet Karen Gillan’s Sarah. She works an unspecified job, currently having a long distance relationship with her boyfriend Peter (Beulah Koale), and appears to be not only friendless, but also lonely. She avoids not only a relationship, but also a conversation with her widowed mother (Maijah Paunio) and her evenings consist of fast food, wine, and porn.

Waking up in a bloody bed, Sarah finds herself profusely vomiting blood. A visit to the hospital determines that she’s dying of a rare non-curable disease and only has an unknown, but limited amount of time to live.

She registers with Replacement to comfort both Peter and her mother, and a few hours later meets her newer, more perfect double (completely identical except for the wrong eye color; but rather than have it destroyed, Sarah opts for the 5% discount), and begins to spend time with her double (who, for clarity, we’ll refer to as Sarah 2), in a process called “imprinting”, which allows Sarah 2 to better replace Sarah when the time comes.

Several months later, Sarah is still alive and the dynamic between her and Sarah 2 has shifted dramatically. Sarah 2 is now dating Peter and has a relationship with Sarah’s mother. She’s more exciting, and has ignored the imprinting, becoming her own person.

Then the shoe drops. Sarah meets with her doctor and learns that her disease is in complete remission. But with both her boyfriend and mother more charmed with the double, Sarah receives little support in her decision to have the clone destroyed. Sarah 2 isn’t fond of this decision either, invoking her 28th amendment rights. Sarah and Sarah 2 have one year to prepare for the dual. During that time, Sarah will be forced to both move out, and financially support Sarah 2.

Sarah hires the best personal combat trainer that she can afford (which isn’t much), Trent (Aaron Paul), who trains her in both physically and mentally to prepare to kill Sarah 2. Despite her training, she can’t pass her final test, to shoot and kill Trent’s dog. Her conscience won’t allow herself to do that.

The last act features an encounter between Sarah and Sarah 2 makes them realize the reality of the situation. One of them has to die. They realize that they both want different lives from one another and propose to run off and cross the border together, disappearing and abandoning the dual. But can either one truly trust the other?

Clocking in at a tight 94 minutes, I felt as though the ending needed to spend a little more time with its resolution. The performances are disarming overall. None of the characters is particularly engaging or interesting. You don’t particularly care for Sarah, or feel as though Sarah 2 is a more interesting character. Peter, Trent, and Sarah’s mother are all pretty much blank slates. I think it’s a comedy, but it isn’t funny, so perhaps it’s a satire. But in the end the film is fairly superficial; you don’t get anything from the characters or the story that invokes an emotion.

Yet, somehow, nevertheless, I thought Dual was effective and entertaining.

I’m just not sure how.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Lee Kim,
Riley Stearns, Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray

Written and Directed by Riley Stearns
Starring Karen Gillan, Beulah Koale, Theo, James Aaron Paul,
Maija Paunio, Sanna-June Hyde, Andrei Alén, Kris Gummerus

 

 

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