Riley Stearns’ new dark comedy is an intriguing science fiction tale that follows Sarah (Karen Gillan) after she is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Sarah, like many other people in this world, decides to replicate herself to save her family the pain of losing her. However, when Sarah goes into remission and is unable to decommission her double, she has one year to prepare to battle her double to the death in a televised duel. The Illuminerdi had the opportunity to speak with Dual writer and director Riley Stearns about his new film and the world he created.
Dual opens with an edge of your seat action sequence that demonstrates these televised duals to the death. Interestingly the televised aspect of the dual actually plays into the monotony of them within the world of this film. For the participants the fight is filled with tension while the spectators don’t share in the high intensity feeling. During our interview Dual writer and director revealed where these duals are broadcast within the world of the film and why he wanted to start with an action scene.
DUAL DIRECTOR REVEALS HOW HIS EXPERIENCE IN TV INSPIRED THE OPENING ACTION SCENE
“The duel was to set up the world. Like to throw you into something, and not give you any explanation initially. And kind of reveal the aspect of the clone, for people who had not seen the trailer or anything. Who were able to go into it blind, which a lot of people at Sundance went into it fairly blind when we were able to get that sort of reaction. I really loved just diving straight into something.
I also come from TV, and there is this thing where you want to hit them with a cold open. Sort of like a teaser, that initiates you to a world, and kind of throws you into it. But doesn’t hold your hand about that, as well. And then you come back and you kind of relate to how. X-files was really great at doing that. Where you would have an opening thing, it would set up the creature or the world of it all, and then you would go back and have Mulder and Scully build to where they get to where that first point was. So, in a weird way it was inspired by that.
Also, just wanted to have a big action set piece start the movie off. And then I really loved the idea, it’s never stated in the movie, but I always had the idea that it was more of like public broadcast. So, it’s like a local event. So, this is not like a national televised thing. This is like, it’s a small football field and a small town. And they’ve got this old janky TV camera that they’re shooting it with. And it’s broadcast to like local PBS stations and stuff.
That again, just the low fi nature of it all. But to get it bogged down and say specifically where it’s going and all that, it becomes too much exposition. But that was the intent and I just thought was a funny way get us introduced to the world. And similarly, we’ve got all this intensity and this violent barbaric thing and then the second the dialog starts with the person, the official who was running the duel, and she throws us into the world of the monotony of it all, and just how they have accepted it as a norm and I liked that.”
Although Dual is focused on the mental and physical preparation for the fight between Sarah and her double the first scene shows what this is leading to. Similarly, another scene in Dual touches upon the impact of these duels. Sarah and her double visit a support group to better understand how it feels for the survivors. Riley Stearns explained that while this isn’t meant to be the focus of Dual he felt it was important to touch upon the emotional aftermath for the survivors while also finding a way to incorporate a hilarious moment of levity.
“I knew that, that wasn’t where the movie, or what the movie was about. So, I didn’t want to linger in that sort of space. It’s not a movie that is about the morality of this act. But I also by that same token, still felt like it was very important to not just gloss over it. And I felt like it was ripe for calling out a little bit of emotion from a movie where characters aren’t always allowed to express themselves in a way other than very directly.
And so, whether we’ve got the scenes in the car where Sarah and Sarah’s double both have moments to kind of break down and let something out. Similarly, that scene feels like one of the few moments in the film where you get to kind of pull back and say, ‘This does effect people.’ Like you see the aftermath of it all. And obviously we end with sort of a joke of a character having maybe done something with themselves…I really loved that there’s a little bit of levity in that scene.
But we really do get some actual emotional responses about how this makes people feel. I felt like it was very important for the movie. Even though it’s three characters that we don’t know, that’s ok that we don’t know them. Because we can understand what they probably went through. I love that scene very much.”
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Dual tackles some heavy questions about death and fighting for your life. Incorporating the actual duel from the start and later the emotional impact of these duels is an important part of understanding what Sarah’s journey is leading to. Riley Stearns taking a page out of his television experience to start the film off with a bang really helps to drop the audience into this world with not only excitement, but intrigue.
Dual is in theaters now.
Are you going to see Dual? Do you like the cold open action sequence style of storytelling? Would you have yourself cloned? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media and check back with The Illuminerdi for more.