Sunday, 14 April 2013

Duel [1971]

Steven Spielberg, but for his share of mishits, has always had an innate ability to concoct truly cinematic experiences. Consequently some of his best moments have been had, when, instead of trying to create something “serious”, he rather focused on making full use of the medium’s audio-visual and technical possibilities. Duel, a made-for-TV film and his feature length directorial debut, remains a classic illustration of that. He didn’t attempt to make anything grand or highbrow; instead, he kept it simple by stripping the premise down to its basics. Consequently what we had here was, a taut, thrilling, visceral, unsettling, muscular and riveting ride – both literally and figuratively. A mid-level exec (Dennis Weaver) is on a road trip down a California highway in his Plymouth for business reasons. However, what should have been a long and uneventful ride, turns into something utterly bizarre, when a faceless psychotic trucker atop a massive Peterbilt gas-tanker, seemingly decides to have some fun with him. What begins as amateurish pranks soon turn incredibly dangerous game of cat and mouse – so much so that, the smug exec, who prefers driving at a comfortable 60 mph, must now test the limits of his car and his driving skills by doing upwards of 90. Nearly bereft of dialogues, except for a few rather inane monologues, this was, so to speak, the first monster movie by a man who would go on to make a few more. The brown, rusty, relentless, ferocious and primal beast almost had a character of its own. On a lesser note, the film also provided a quiet meditation on America’s vast, endless and eerily lonely highway network.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Thriller/Road Movie/Chase Movie
Language: English
Country: US

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