Karen Gillan comes face-to-face with herself…literally…in the latest film from the mind of filmmaker Riley Stearns.

Sarah is a young woman who has been going through a lot. Her relationship with boyfriend Peter seems to be going nowhere due to his constant work aboard. Her relationship with her mother is somewhat estranged. One day, she wakes up coughing up blood but thinks nothing of it. That is, until Peter gives her the news that she has terminal cancer after a mixup makes Peter the primary contact from the doctors. Sarah learns she has a year left to live and hears about a cloning process that will allow a clone to live her life once hers is over.

At first, Sarah is content with her clone. However, as months pass, Sarah begins to regret her decision when Peter’s relationship with the double is much more improved than his relationship with the real Sarah. Sarah soon learns that miraculously; her cancer is in remission, and she will be able to live. When she attempts to have the clone decommissioned. However, the double wants to continue the life she has because Peter and her mother have found the double to be a better person. Sarah soon learns that within a year’s time, Sarah and the double will be forced to face off in a duel to the death. Under intense training from Trent, Sarah is determined to do what it takes to keep her life and not let her double take over.

With his last film, The Art of Self Defense, gaining quite a following among indie film fans, one only wondered what was next for writer-director Riley Stearns. What he has come up with an idea that would be an idea used in a dystopian sci-fi world but somehow translate it into a modern day setting in which a woman on the verge of death gets cloned only to learn she won’t die so soon. While the use of “clones” have been done in modern day comedy (Multiplicity) and even sci-fi action (Replicant), Stearns wisely brings the feel of this sci-fi trope to a modern setting as well as bring a character study of the film’s protagonist.

Karen Gillan pulls off an impressive performance as Sarah, a young woman who from the outset is a woman suffering from so much. She looks so somber and has this somewhat of an estrangement with her mother as she refuses her calls. In addition, the fact her boyfriend Peter, played by Beulah Koare, is away for work a lot has led to a standstill in their relationship. No wonder why Sarah seems to be miserable and is content with herself for a while. It is when she learns about her cancer diagnosis that she agrees to be cloned as a means to make herself a better person when it is time for her to pass away.

We do get to see a more self-confidence in Sarah after she learns that she is not dying, but gets the hard truth from Peter about their relationship as opposed to the double’s. As the double, Gillan does a great job when it comes to being blunt upon telling the real Sarah how things are going to go in terms of her life and relationships. These two factors become the catalyst for the real Sarah to undergo combat training under the mysterious Trent, excellently played by Aaron Paul.

While Paul seems to be a bit ruthless and tough talking, there is a bit of a soft spot in terms of his character. This comes in a scene where Sarah offers to trade in something else instead of cash for more combat training. No, we’re not talking about the hibbety dibbety either. It is actually quite cute and brings a sense of warmth to an otherwise tense film. The third act takes a left turn and brings a sense of shock but is well thought out in terms of the fates of Sarah and her double.

Dual is a tense thriller with Karen Gillan leading the way in a literal “dual” role who must engage in a “duel” to the death. Aaron Paul gives some great support as her trainer while Beulah Koare makes the most of his time as her boyfriend. The third act is quite shocking and the “heartwarming” scene between Paul and Gillan brings a temporary comic and feel good relief to an otherwise tense character study.

WFG RATING: A

An XYZ Films Production. Director: Riley Stearns. Producers: Nata Bolotin, Maxime Cottray, Lee Kim, Nick Spicer, Riley Stearns, and Aram Tertzakian. Writer: Riley Stearns. Cinematography: Michael Ragen. Editing: Sarah Beth Shapiro.

Cast: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koare, Elina Jackson, Maija Paunio, Rea Lest, June Hyde, Kristofer Gummerus, Thoe James, Nico Siekkinen, Jamie Siekkinen.

The film will be released in theaters on April 15, 2022.