Duel (1971) 4.14/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 79.7
Genre: Thriller, Action
Duration: 90 mins
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Dennis Weaver, Jacqueline Scott, Eddie Firestone

Steven Spielberg’s early feature is a blistering psychological action thriller starring Dennis Weaver as an everyday motorist who, whilst driving through the desert to a business meeting, is targeted by a faceless maniac in a menacing truck. Adapted from a Richard Matheson short story, Duel is, on the face of things, an action movie but so deep does it delve into the constructs of fear and manliness and in such an insightful manner, that it becomes something much more piercing. Weaver puts in a brave and compelling performance in that he gives us a lead who is weak and even somewhat unlikable. This was necessary to capture the complexities of the character as well as the circumstances he finds himself in even before his encounter with the truck. In fact, in many ways, the truck and his battle with it is a thundering external metaphor for what he is already combating more inwardly as he set out on his journey that morning. For that reason alone, this is a fascinating and uniquely engaging film. However, Duel is also an interesting opportunity to catch Spielberg during his formative years and while the film is speckled with some basic errors, that immense talent for building suspense is evidenced throughout. Not surprisingly, the driving sequences are handled with aplomb but even the most ardent Spielberg fans will be pleasantly surprised by their ferociousness – kudos to his editor Frank Morriss and director of photography Jack A. Marta. Full of split second energy and raw edges, they become the mirror and the catharsis for the mental turmoil that drives this picture.

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One thought on “Duel (1971)”

  1. Very good write up, D! I really like this film and I am glad you mentioned the great editing and camera work. I love listening to Spielberg talk about his goof ups. All in good fun, though. Nice job!

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