Riley Stearns, the writer/director behind the hilarious dark comedy, The Art of Self Defense, is back with an even weirder dark comedy called “Dual.” It stars Karen Gillan, Beulah Koale, Theo James, and Aaron Paul. The plot follows a woman who has to fight a clone of herself to the death after she unexpectedly recovers from a terminal illness.
Right off the bat, I adore Gillan who has really shown her acting range post Nebula/Avengers films. She’s a great actress with very good comedic timing. Even though here it’s a bit more nuanced and monotoned. Which is why it’s so funny because it so completely absurd.
In the near future, Sarah is a depressed alcoholic in a lackluster relationship with her boyfriend Peter, and generally disconnected from her pestering mother. One day, Sarah awakens to find a pool of blood in her bed and later learns from Peter (through information brought by the doctor) that she’s terminally ill with a 2% chance of surviving.
To save those she cares about from the pain of losing her, Sarah opts for a cloning procedure of herself to take her place that she soon dubs “Sarah Double”, giving the clone the basic knowledge on her interests and lifestyle, but wants to wait until she’s dead before letting her double inform her mother on the whole dilemma. Months later, however, Sarah learns that she is miraculously in remission from the disease and is going to live.
When she goes to her mother’s house to share the good news, she finds Peter and Sarah Double there, and is furious to discover that SD had been in contact with her mother for quite some time against her wishes. The truth now exposed, Sarah tries to return things to normal and demand her clone to be “decommissioned”, only to be rejected by Peter who, as well as her mother, both prefer the clone.
Opting to have SD decommissioned immediately, Sarah is told that SD requested to stay alive, meaning that, by law, they would have to participate in a publicized duel to the death they must prepare for in a year. Having to pay for her clone as well as herself, Sarah soon takes up self-defense and combat classes with the trainer, Trent.
Aaron Paul who plays Trent is every bit as odd and monotone as Gillan’s Sarah. In fact the only person that shows any sort of personality or initiative is SD. Maybe that’s just the directors sad commentary on society not appreciating life. Something I would have loved to have seen delved into more.
However as enjoyable as the first two acts of the film are, the third acts completely falls short.
While in the middle of a test with Trent, Sarah spots her clone watching from outside and chases her to a nearby playground. There, they talk over their situation before SD takes Sarah to a support group for people who survived their duels. Outside, the two bond and agree to escape past the border to live their lives.
The next morning, the two hike through a forest where Sarah discovers that SD has poisoned her water. SD eventually shows up late to the duel alone, lying that she is the original and stating that the “clone” has fled. After a thorough investigation, she is free to completely take over as the only Sarah.
I absolutely hated this. If you are going to subvert expectations and throw a curve ball at the audience that’s one thing. But when you spend the entire film building up to an epic confrontation and then deliver a bad science fiction ending from the 1970s that just makes the audience wonder why we even invested our time into watching from the start.
In conclusion, HipsterZOMBIEJoint Experience DOES NOT recommend checking out Dual.
But highly suggest you go back and watch Stearn’s other film, The Art of Self Defense.