RS: Duel

In what is arguably one of the most fruitful one-time collaborations between an actor and director, Steven Spielberg and Dennis Weaver do an excellent job with minimal resources in the 1971 made-for-TV movie Duel. What seperates this film from other countless made-for-television films is that it was made by one of the greatest directors in cimematic history (Spielberg) and on its shoestring budget and shooting schedule (13 days), it really delivered.

The film’s plot is certainly minimalistic compared to Speilberg’s other contributions to the history of film: An invisible man driving a 1951 Peterbilt 281 trailer truck engages in a road-duel to the death with a Plymouth Valiant driven by Dennis Weaver’s character across the barren SoCal desert. And in this case, the simplicity of the film is where it succeeds brilliantly. It doesn’t try to be any more than it is: a chase film, and it is a damn good one. It’s technical merits are nothing to scoff at either, the cinematography that is used when dealing with the 281 is subtle, but quite brilliant. By consistently using low angles that are oriented upwards, it gives the truck an incredibly imposing feel. And the blaring sun really helps for a highly contrasted look that gives the truck “a human face”, possibly a replacement for the drivers face, which we never see.

It’s also worth noting lead actor’s Dennis Weaver’s opinion on the film — that he watches it every year in order to remember what he and Spielberg were able to do in such a short period of time. And in that respect, I will keep this review short as well. Because of Duel being such a great little action/suspense film and its interesting, intriguing technical merits, the film earns four stars. And this is by no means simply praising the film for being a part of Spielberg’s ouvere — it’s classic in the sense of chase films, and truly a film not to be missed.

For more thoughts on Duel, read Jonathan Henderson’s review.


About Ryan Silva
An American born cinephile writing, making films, and studying in New York City. Festival addict and student Jurist at the 2010 Rhode Island International Film Festival. Hits: moe anime and space operas. Misses: Smelly roommates and Jersey Shore

One Response to RS: Duel

  1. Pingback: JH: Duel « Forced Perspective

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