July 25, 2022
Box Office $0.19 million;
$27.97 DVD, $28.96 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for violent content, some sexual content, language and graphic nudity.
Stars Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Theo James, Beulah Koale, Maija Paunio, Sanna-June Hyde.
Writer-director Riley Stearns’ Dual presents an offbeat satire about the nature of identity.
The film is set in a near-future world where nearly everyone speaks with the same kind of droll precision as the characters from American Psycho. Scientific advancements have led to a rapid form of cloning, giving rise to a new industry that allows terminally ill people to duplicate themselves before they die, allowing their clones to live out their lives and minimizing the distress on their loved ones.
The catch is that if the dying person doesn’t die, the clone will either be destroyed or, if it has lived long enough, it can request a form of asylum that calls for the person to duel the clone to the death, with the survivor earning the rights to the disputed persona.
Karen Gillan plays Sarah, who is told she has an incurable disease with a 98% chance of dying. Sarah decides to play the clone card to ease the pain of her potential death on her boyfriend and mother. Sarah and her double seem to get along fine at first, but then 10 months pass, and Sarah remains alive. In the interim, subtle personality differences in Sarah’s Double have led Sarah’s boyfriend to leave her for the double. Sarah turns out to be one of the 2% the disease doesn’t kill, but when she vows to have her clone eliminated out of jealousy, Sarah’s Double files for the right to live, setting up a fight to the death in a year.
Stunned by these developments, Sarah prepares for the dual by hiring a trainer (Aaron Paul) who specializes in clone combat rituals. Their workouts evoke the spirit of a low-rent Hunger Games.
Gillan gives a fantastically understated performance as both world-weary Sarah and the eager to take over double. Paul is equally fun to watch as the bargain-basement trainer, mostly because he’s the primary source of exposition to see the inventive paths Stearns has taken in developing the film’s premise.
Stearns’ matter-of-fact approach to the material can seem off-putting at times, but the film clearly derives much of its humor from the casual apathy of this society toward the premise and everything embodied by it. One of its darker ideas involves people getting clones because they’re ultra-depressed and intend to kill themselves so the clone can take over their lives.
The Blu-ray includes a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette and an insightful commentary from Stearns in which he mostly sings the praises of his cast and about the benefits of filming in Finland.