Just got diagnosed with a terminal illness? No problem, your doctor will also share details about Replacement, a popular cloning technology that allows you to replace yourself with a healthy clone so that no one will have to mourn your passing. Ideally, you and your clone will have a few months overlap so you can teach them all about your preferences and behaviors, but that doesn’t always work out in practice.
When 30-something Sarah (Karen Gillan) gets the news about her terminal diagnosis she decides that the cloning process makes sense. She won’t live, but kinda, sorta she will live on through Clone Sarah. The cloning process and eventual switch isn’t a secret to anyone, the most interesting part of the story. But Clone Sarah isn’t exactly like Sarah and soon her standoffish boyfriend Trent (Aaron Paul) has fallen for Clone Sarah and even Sarah’s mother decides Clone Sarah is nicer than the “real” Sarah, to her dismay.
The big twist is when Sarah learns that she’s in complete remission. Great news, but what happens to Clone Sarah? Turns out that when this situation arises and the clone won’t agree to just be “retired” that human and clone are required to fight each other in a battle to the death. Not only that but it’s televised as entertainment for the masses, a sort of bread and circuses type of program in a highly technological age.
Sarah’s not much of a fighter but fortunately has a year to prepare for the mano-a-mano deathmatch, so she hires handsome combat training consultant Trent (Aaron Paul) to toughen her up and learn how to take another’s life without hesitation. When it’s Sarah versus Clone Sarah, however, anything goes, and it might not take until the officially sanctioned event for one of them to try and put the other out of commission.
That’s the premise for the engaging and interesting indie sci-fi Dual, and while the story isn’t entirely unique (the man vs. clone novel Mickey 7 comes to mind) it is provocative. Director Riley Stearns delivers a low-budget indie film that gives Gillan plenty of room to show off her acting skills, though the Sarah that’s doing hip-hop at a dance studio seems completely unrelated to the brooding, depressed Sarah slumped on the couch after yet another awkward FaceTime conversation with Trent.
The setting conveys an entirely appropriate sort of Anywhere USA sense that separates the story from its location, which works, but Dual was filmed in an unusual location, the cities of Tampere, Lempäälä, and Kangasala, Finland, which is why it was surprising that the exotic locations weren’t utilized in the story.
Dual is a simple, straightforward sci-fi film that is carried on Gillan’s mostly capable shoulders and while the ending is unsurprising (and only a bit off-kilter given the story to that point), it’s still an entertaining story overall. This is one to hunt down and watch. I won’t be surprised if the story (written by director Stearns) is picked up for a remake or series as there’s an underlying Battle Royale meets Hunger Games energy that could really invigorate this concept into a must-watch. As is, Dual is one to catch once it’s on HBO, Netflix, or Amazon Prime Video.