It would always have been a tough call to do a 90-minute movie on such exiguous material, both in terms of script and equipment: basically a massive tanker truck and a small car.
Given that just about the entire 90 minutes are on the road, one who knows anything about trucks knows that the menacing old jallopy of a tanker truck could never pump up to the speeds it appears to be doing in the movie. In reality, the central character, played by Dennis Weaver, should have put many miles between the two vehicles in no time, thus leaving the menace trailing in the dust and looking for opposition more its own speed and size.
If you manage to overcome that hurdle in terms of believability, you have to wonder why Weaver keeps applying brakes, veering off the road, getting all rattled, and violating all manner of safe driving rules, often upon seeing the tanker truck in the rearview mirror. And, as if that were not questionable enough, twice he runs in the hope of catching up to the dastardly truck, as if he could catch up on two legs and businessman shoes!... and what about his fear that causes him to go all nervous upon sight of the truck, does it disappear miraculously when he is away from his own car and apparently even more vulnerable?
Let me say without any hesitation that the character played by Weaver is not blessed with a high IQ. Quite the contrary, he decides to get into a phone booth standing in the middle of poisonous snakes and tarantulas while the truck is speeding up in his direction - and, needless to say, flattens the booth, snakes et all.
The script is necessarily squalid, a monologue for the most part, and not a particularly exciting one at that. Camera work deserves plaudits for making the most of bare bones and Weaver's acting is competent and relatively convincing, once you've accepted that he is not the brightest spark around.
You never get to see the truck driver, only his arm, very briefly, waving to Weaver to overtake, but he is a nasty villain obviously determined to prevent Weaver reaching his business meeting in time, to bother Weaver all he can, to place Weaver in harm's way, and, ultimately, to kill him.
And it is in this frantic and obsessive attempt to kill that you realize that the truck driver's IQ is as low as his intended victim's, or he would have stopped the truck before rolling down the hill.
Despite glaring flaws, DUEL is a much copied work and its influence can be seen in movies such as LES PASSAGERS (France, 1977, with Jean-Louis Trintignant) and BREAKDOWN (US 1997, with Kurt Russel), among others.
It also helped launch Spielberg's career as director and he, like the film, has had ups and downs in terms of quality, from the lofty heights of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, to the depths of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, among others.
6/10 for Spielberg's honorable debut at age 22, and courage in taking up such a potentially un-filmable project as DUEL.
Action / Thriller
Action / Thriller
While traveling through the desert for an appointment with a client, the businessman David Mann from California passes a slow and old tanker truck. The psychotic truck driver feels offended and chases David along the empty highway trying to kill him.
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October 14, 2014 at 11:35 AM