Among the factors which may draw viewers to Dual, the somewhat genre-defying 2022 sci-fi film, is the top line billing of Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul. The latter is best known for his role as Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad (and its associated spin-offs). The former rose to prominence as the Eleventh Doctor’s companion Amy Pond more than a decade ago on Doctor Who. She has since achieved mainstream fame as Nebula in various Marvel movies and as Ruby Roundhouse in two Jumanji outings.
Dual is based on the intriguing premise that a terminally-ill person can have themselves cloned in order to carry on living. Not much time is spent on the hows and whys, but the clone emerges fully formed and in possession of the all the memories and education of their source. When Sarah (Gillan) finds out she has limited time left to live, she opts for a clone. It’s kind of like in Joe Versus the Volcano, when Tom Hanks’ Joe is informed he as an incurable “brain cloud” and doesn’t seek a second opinion. Sarah’s Double is born/created after Sarah accepts her initial diagnosis at face value. However, she soon after finds out she isn’t actually sick.
Dual shallowly examines themes of personal identity, how we regard ourselves, and why we are attracted to (or repelled by) others. It doesn’t delve too deeply into any of these big questions. Sarah is left to decide what to do with her double, who both her boyfriend and mother have taken a clear preference to. Though not explicitly set in any particular time period, the apparently futuristic world of Dual has well-established rules regarding treatment of one’s double once they’ve been allowed to infiltrate society. Rather than simply be terminated, the original and the double must dual each other. Only one can survive. It’s sort of like Hunger Games, except without any excitement or action.
It’s science fiction, yes. But the reason I called it genre-defying is that writer-director Riley Stearns (of the similarly hard-to-pin-down The Art of Self-Defense) presents the material as part drama, part thriller, and part black comedy. There are some very interesting elements mixed in throughout Dual‘s compact 95-minute runtime. It just doesn’t ever gel into anything particularly dramatic, thrilling, or amusing. Worth a watch if you’re a Gillan fan (though I’d recommend trying to find her short-lived TV show Selfie and spend your time on that instead). Aaron Paul, incidentally, is entirely underutilized as a hand-to-hand combat trainer Sarah employs to help train her for her dual.
The RLJ Entertainment Blu-ray contains a Riley Stearns audio commentary track and a brief promotional making-of featurette.