Dual boasts a fascinating concept and solid double performance from Karen Gillan but can’t quite deliver a sci-fi classic
In ‘Dual’, Sarah (Karen Gillan) is living in what you might describe as a pre depressive state of mind. She takes little pleasure from work or the people around. Her long-term boyfriend is absent and communicates mostly by video call and her mother is an overbearing and judgemental drain on her soul. She spends her evenings drinking wine and trying to masturbate uninterrupted, but even that is challenging for her. So, when she receives the news that she is terminally ill with a 98% certainty that she will die, she isn’t as distressed or upset as you would imagine.
She seeks the services of a tech company who offer ‘replacements’. These are cloned copies of your physical self. They live with you and learn directly from you how to be you, with the intention of becoming you once you die. This is designed to ease the pain and suffering of the loved ones left behind. The procedure is only available to those who have medical proof they are dying.
So, when after 10 months of training her replacement to be her, Sarah gets a call saying she is in remission, they are left with a dilemma to solve. The law doesn’t allow for two of the same persons to exist and in the rare instances when this occurs, the original and the copy are required to fight it out in a duel to the death for the right to live.
Dual is written, produced and directed by Riley Stearns (The Art of Self Defence) and sees Karen Gillan convincingly play two believable different versions of herself but not by making on version loud or by a different accent. She does it with subtleties and delivers a much nuanced and balanced performance. She almost holds the film together herself but is given decent support from Aaron Paul as ‘Trent’, her trainer for the upcoming Duel. These two worked well together and although it starts off looking like it will be a cliche student/teacher relationship, they are able to take it in a slightly different direction.
I loved the idea of this movie. A clone challenging you for your life, thinking they could make better use of it and be a better you is interesting. Terminal illness is something which affects a huge percentage of the population, and this film recognises that one of the biggest concerns is the grief of those left behind, how do they cope and how much do we actually do to minimise their pain? A closeted copy may be extreme but if it lets them live and function, is it the future?
These concepts are never really explored. Cloning technology may seem futuristic but in the real world it’s in its infancy and may come into play one day. Would a clone be considered human life; would they have the same right to live? The film feels underbaked, possibly due to the director wearing so many hats. Occasionally ‘indie’ films can feel and appear big budget by vision and concept. This one really ‘feels’ like an indie. At 1hr 35mins, it doesn’t hang around for long. It stalls over parts it probably could have left out and races through others.
One of the more interesting relationships in the film was between Sarah and her trainer Trent. There are hints that it may develop but these fail to materialise. The film at time races towards its ‘epic’ conclusion, the event we are all waiting for (I mean, it’s in the title) but unfortunately the payoff in the finale is lacking and sadly left me feeling short changed.
‘Dual’ had the potential to be a lot more interesting and entertaining than it turned out to be. I would still recommend giving this a chance, if nothing else, for some its concepts and ideas but manage your expectations. This is not the hidden gem I was hoping for but it’s still worth a watch to see the talented Katen Gillan put in a decent double performance.
‘Dual’ arrives on UK screens on June 5th as a Sky Cinema Original