Satires are always tough to nail. When done right, dark humour can provide powerful perspectives to explore our current social lives. In Dual, Riley Stearns blends high-concept sci-fi with deadpan comedy; creating quite an interesting premise. Unfortunately, it’s a mixture that ends up being too inconsistent.

It’s difficult to criticise a film when every storytelling element fulfils the purpose and intent of the writer-director. From the one-dimensional, apathetic performances to the overall heavy monotone, Stearns efficiently translates every idea from his imaginative screenplay to the silver screen. Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, and every other actor seamlessly embody their dull characters. Just like the technical aspects, the entire cast does what’s requested of them: to be wholly and utterly devoid of any sort of emotion or expression. To deliver every line of dialogue without an ounce of energy; to push the viewers away from any human connection whatsoever.

The issue is unfortunately obvious. If the deadpan satire doesn’t work, then everything crumbles. The vast majority of jokes rarely land, and the admittedly clever development of its thematic notions concerning humanity feel incredibly underwhelming & hollow. It becomes extremely challenging to connect with or care about a single character. This emotional detachment severely impacts the overall enjoyment of Dual. Apart from the entertaining, rather amusing period where Gillan and Paul share some screen-time; there isn’t much else to look forward to. The last half-hour is exceptionally unsatisfying —undermining the respective build-up— leaving an overall feeling of disappointment and frustration

Dual boasts an intriguing, high-concept premise that entirely commits to Riley Stearns’ deadpan satire. But despite being full of purpose and intent, the latter component is taken to such an extreme that it negatively impacts everything which surrounds it. Every filmmaking and storytelling element feels incredibly underwhelming and ultimately hollow. Audiences will struggle to find enjoyment in a world full of interesting ideas; infused with divisive execution.

Still Courtesy – XYZ Films
Dual premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as part of the US Dramatic Competition category. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

By Manuel São Bento

A 28-year-old critic with a tremendous passion for film, television, and the art of filmmaking. An unbiased perspective from someone who stopped watching trailers since 2016. Member of GFCA, IFSC, and OFTA. Approved on Banana Meter. Social media: @msbreviews.