Dual is one of those movies that presents a lot of great ideas but does little with them. Set in the future during an undetermined time, it begins with Theo James as someone who seems to be hunted in front of an audience. He is shot with a crossbow arrow but is able to defeat his opponent killing him. Then, we see it’s someone who looks like Theo James. He is asked if he’s Robert Michaels or the double to which he answers, he’s the double.
Then, we switch to Sarah (Karen Gillan), a depressed woman who drinks too much and is in a lackluster relationship with her boyfriend, Peter (Beulah Koale) who’s away on business. Sarah’s mother (Maija Paunio) is a constant annoyance pestering her with phone calls that she never responds to. One morning after having a dream of herself out to a restaurant with her mother, she wakes up after coughing up a lot of blood.
This doesn’t even seem to phase her much as she non-chalantly strips the bed and puts the sheets in the washer. Then at the emergency room, she tries to play if off that it’s not an emergency as she coughs up blood in front of the receptionist. Her doctor (Sanna-June Hyde) later screws up and contacts Peter leaving a long detailed message that she’s dying despite Sarah thinking she feels better.
Sarah is put in touch with a company that makes doubles that can help those around her. Initially skeptical, because she can’t afford it, Sarah is told that her double will pay it off. So, feeling death is imminent, she goes through with the procedure. Yet, the problem is the double seems to immediately act different demanding Sarah buy her different clothes. There’s something funny as Sarah almost expected the double to accept everything she liked the way parents often insists their kids eat what they like or wear the clothes they want them to wear.
Months pass by and Peter and the double have begun a serious relationship as Sarah has had to watch. It’s obvious in the double and Peter’s talking, they’re waiting for her to die. But there’s a problem. The doctor tells Sarah that she’s fine and gotten healthier. Apparently, she was part of the small margin of error that recovered. Even worse, the double has already been introduced to her mother who likes the double more. And Peter is no longer in love with Sarah but the double.
Sarah can’t get the double “decommissioned” because she’s filed a stay and that means they will have to duel it out in a year just the way Robert Michaels had to do with his double. Sarah will also have to pay for the double as well as her own attorney. Apparently, most doubles are “decommissioned” but Sarah’s meets a different criteria. The way people act around Sarah as if this is all her fault to begin with will hit hard for some people because you sympathize with her. She was wanting to make things better for those around her and now they’ve shunned her.
It’s at this point the movie kinda wastes whatever spunk it had going in. Riley Stearns, who wrote and directed, presents a satirical world where the instructional video for doubles takes an awful twist that I won’t reveal. It’s done so matter of fact, you have to chuckle at its awfulness. And just like the video, Peter and Sarah’s mother basically abandon her and she finds herself screwed over by the law. Gillan handles all this with the reaction who’s almost waiting for the next worse thing to happen so she can’t freak out just yet. You feel for her.
But then, we get a lackluster sequence in which she hires a combat trainer, Trent (Aaron Paul) and it’s the same stuff we’ve seen time and time again. Stearns could’ve looked at what the legalities are of having doubles. And when the double tracks down Sarah, they go to a support group for people who have survived duels. There’s even a line about a double that had sex with itself that is comical. But what Sarah learns is the honeymoon is over and the double is getting just as frustrated as she was.
The double is mad because her and Peter can’t agree on what movies to watch. She’s also is getting annoyed just as Sarah of the constant contact and phone calls her mother makes. The movie presents the argument that Sarah’s depression is part of the environment around her. When she tries to text Peter early on, he acts like he’s tired. But you get the feeling that he may be cheating on her or even hanging out with some other people. Peter is a horrible person. He makes a comment that she made him an emergency contact by accident. Sarah is better off without him.
Mahershala Ali had appeared in Swan Song in 2021 which was about a dying man who gets a clone too but it was more dramatic. This reminds me of Significant Other where aliens make clones of people but one discovers it’s also cloned the original’s mental issues. We don’t see much of Sarah’s social life outsider interactions with Peter and her mother but it’s mentioned she spends a lot of time at home. I look at the double as how people always shop at the new grocery store in town for a while but over time, people stop going because the thrill is gone.
But the movie more or less stops short of a duel with a twist that doesn’t seem like it’s earned. The double ends up feeling just as sad and depressed as Sarah. Maybe it was because the funding fell short. Gillan does what she can with the role and you don’t have to wonder who’s who when they’re on screen. I just wish there was a better execution to the pemise.
What do you think? Please comment.