Dual: Karen Gillan Is Superb in Dual Roles

Aaron Paul and Karen Gillan appear in DUAL by Riley Stearns, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

It’s double the Karen Gillan when a terminally ill woman recovers and has to fight for her life in the new Riley Stearns film, Dual.

When Sarah (Karen Gillan) learns that she has a terminal illness, she decides to clone herself so as to make things easier on family and friends such as Peter (Beulah Koale) and her mother (Maija Paunio). Of course, you couldn’t make this sort of film without dramatically raising the stakes. In this instance, Sarah miraculously recovers all of a sudden but getting her clone decommissioned is easier said than done. Under the law, it means having a court-mandated duel to the death. To say that Sarah spends the next year fighting for her life–while training with Trent (Aaron Paul)–is not an understatement. It’s basically the Hunger Games so to speak.

Karen Gillan absolutely shines in the dual performance, which also makes an argument for what could be her career-best work to date. What you’re getting from the actress in the film is nothing like the Jumanji, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Avengers movies. I’d even argue that it’s an even better acting performance than the film she directed, The Party’s Just Beginning.

I first saw this film during Sundance in January, where it premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. With my headspace not being in the right place due to current events at the time, I decided I would benefit from a second watch. Lo and behold, the release day falls as Passover begins on Friday night so the added stress probably doesn’t help much on this end. In any event, it is a very different film from The Art of Self-Defense. Riley Stearns used his previous film to explore toxic masculinity themes. In this film, he’s looking at the ethics of cloning and all that comes with it. I suppose things could be worse–he could be exploring the cloning of dinosaurs. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see?!?

This is one of the smarter sci-fi comedies to hit the screen in recent years. There are a lot of ethical questions that one must ask when it comes to cloning and this film touches on why. You can make an ethical argument about why cloning dinosaurs is wrong but they can’t speak for themselves. I say this as a Jurassic Park fan, too. Cloning a human means you are bringing in a new life of an already existing person–there’s an ethical boundary here. I mean, Sarah wanted a clone because she was dying but once she is no longer dying, what happens? Is it okay to just killer off her clone or do you treat her as another living being? This is where Riley Stearns is really bringing on the social commentary on the matter!

Dual was shot on location in Finland during the pandemic.

CAST: Karen Gillan, Beulah Koale, with Theo James and Aaron Paul

RLJE Films will release Dual in theaters on April 15, 2022. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.