Not quite the sci-fi action movie clone you’re probably expecting
It’s Karen Gillan vs Karen Gillan in this high-concept but low-key sci-fi thriller. She stars as Sarah, a young woman who receives a fatal diagnosis after being told that she has an incurable disease with only a 2% chance of remission.
After being given this devastating news, Sarah decides to pay for a ‘replacement;’ a clone of herself that will integrate itself into her life and then replace her following her death. She does this because she doesn’t want her mother and partner to be alone after she has gone.
When the clone has been created (only an hour after she has provided the saliva for the cloning process), Sarah begins to question the meaning of her own existence.
In concept, the movie is similar to the Mahershala Ali-starring Swan Song, in which a terminally ill man has himself cloned so his family don’t have to live a life without him. But whereas that was an emotionally charged weepie, Dual is something altogether different, although categorizing it is difficult as it is a thriller without many thrills and a black comedy that isn’t particularly funny.
Dual is still a good movie though, even if it doesn’t fall neatly into one particular genre. Gillan is good in a dual role and the scenes of the two Sarah’s together are rarely unconvincing. Just as Ali’s character regretted being cloned after seeing the effect his double had on his family, Gillan also begins to regret her decision.
However, that is where the similarities in the story end as Sarah miraculously recovers from whatever illness she had. This is obviously good news but as her double has had a chance at life, it can’t be disposed of easily. Sarah is told that she needs to take part in a court-mandated dual to the death as only one version of her is allowed to exist. Why this is, we don’t really know but like Sarah, we have to accept that this is the way things work in the future.
On being given this news, Sarah decides to prepare for the dual with the help of Trent (Aaron Paul), a combat trainer who teaches her all she needs to know about combat and self-defence. His teaching methods swing from traditional fight training to dodgy instructional videos but despite the unhelpfulness of the latter, Sarah still manages to turn herself into a killing machine. But there is a difference between knowing how to kill and actually doing it, as Sarah discovers when she fails to follow Trent’s orders to kill a dog. As such, it is clear that Sarah might not have what it takes to dispose of the double that has busily been taking over her life.
I’ll say no more of the plot here so as to avoid any spoilers but needless to say, the path to victory over her clone isn’t a straightforward one. The movie rarely ventures into places you will expect which is quite refreshing, as this could have been just another battle royale movie with hints of The Hunger Games and The 6th Day.
The opening scene featuring one man (Theo James) facing off against his double suggests something more violent and action-heavy but this is a bit of a red herring as Dual ventures into other directions as the story plays out.
Despite being set in the future, director Riley Stearns doesn’t provide the dazzle or the futuristic gadgetry that is often prevalent in movies of this sort. This is probably because of budgetary limitations but the lack of visual panache actually works in Dual‘s favour as there is nothing to distract us from the central premise of the story. This is about Sarah and the moral dilemmas she is faced with rather than an empty-headed spectacle in the vein of Gemini Man where two other lookalikes went up against each other.
As such, you shouldn’t come to this movie expecting thrills and spills as this is more of an exploration of what it means to be alive rather than an action movie. In this regard, it is more about Sarah rather than her double as while you would expect Dual to showcase the clone’s existential plight, it focuses more on Sarah and the ways in which she comes to terms with the meaning of her own life.
Taken as a whole, this isn’t a perfect movie. With the exception of the clone (ironically), the characters are largely cold, dispassionate, and rather two-dimensional, so it never fully engages on an emotional level. This might be intentional so I can’t fault the director’s intent if so but the final scenes would have had more impact if we had somebody relatable to root for.
Despite this, Dual is still worth seeing. Gillan gives two strong performances, there are plenty of surprises to keep us on our toes, and the ending is one that will have people talking long after the closing credits have rolled. Provided you go into this expecting a head-scratcher rather than a heart thumper, you might have a good time with this one.
Read More: Dual Ending Explained
Verdict - 7/10