“Dual” attempts to dive into unexplored territory with an unorthodox twist on a familiar concept but still falls into that maddening column of not utilizing its own hidden potential, instead trying to talk a big game only to shy away from any direct confrontation.
Riley Stearns’ direction, at the very least, helps paint an isolated but rather stilted, stylized world where basic human interaction comes off almost alien to better supply the dizzying weirdness that characterizes both the premise and overall ambiance the film encompasses. Not to mention the minimalistic approach to the cinematography; how each frame warps reality to a jarring, cold, voidless blank space with a bleak muted color scheme. It has a blunt tone that’s flattened but consistent, production design captures the kooky, duel nature of Stearns deadpan style, the music ranges from annoyingly discordant to pleasantly discomforting, it breezes by its runtime in almost no time at all and surprisingly, the film does pack a couple of well-placed or awkwardly placed gags that got a few chuckles out of me, which is a big deal since I’m not normally a fan of deadpan humor.
Yet, the caveat to all of that comes down to what doesn’t get brought up to the surface.
For a movie that could’ve explored the psychological and existential implications of individuality in a doppelgänger, the tension is strangely tepid and the payoff to the surface level dual feels like Stearns wrote himself into a corner as impactful the final scene does eventually linger on. Sure, it does briefly show us the troubling pros and cons of being cloned, highlighting the existential anxieties that the pandemic has since exemplified in all of us regarding personal identity, mass brainwashing and self-destruction; the problem is the script keeps pulling back.
They never explore the most interesting aspects of these characters or, at the very least, reveal enough to get me to care about any of them. The concept bares thin and somehow only gets mildly frustrating the longer the film goes on because of this.
A sci-fi satire with all the reminiscence of a "Black Mirror" episode despite coming at the expense of any psychological nuance, this film nonetheless did remind me of the many 70’s films I’ve had to watch for class recently. I understand why the film went the route it did; I just wish it spent more time on its themes so I could connect with the full brunt of what Stearns wanted to say about self-identity.