Movie Review – Duel

Posted: June 2, 2013 in Movie Reviews
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How many could believe this is Spielberg’s first movie. It is an edge of the seat thriller just like any of his blockbuster movies. Spielberg has this uncanny formula by which he gets the audience to get hooked to cinema.


The outline of the story might sound simple, may even sound silly for some. It’s about two vehicles on a freeway. This being Spielberg’s first film some scenes may look amateurish like the lead character talking out his emotion. He also wasn’t great in acting. Could have done better. But here the real characters are a red Plymouth Valiant and a rusty Peterbilt 281. These vehicles define themselves.

The car, Plymouth Valiant is sleek, chick and red in color. Like a femme fatale in Noir films and Peterbilt is huge, heavy and rugged. We don’t need to guess much. The hunter is the truck here and the hunted in the car. Vehicles like humans can’t portray different emotions so it’s obvious the vehicle which looks pleasing to our eyes is the protagonist and the rugged one is the antagonist.

The scenes involving the duel are treat to watch but whenever he gets out of the car the screenplay slightly falters. First of the few scenes where gets out to call his wife especially could have been better if wife had not been shown and with only one side of the conversation on. In suspense thriller there should suspense in every possible way. If we had heard just one side of the conversation the curiosity would have been even more leading us to sit upright with anxiety.

Spielberg is good with kids. His later movies like E.T. And A.I. proves it but we get a glimpse of what to come in this movie. When he sees a school van which had broken down he agrees to help. Only to be bullied by the kids around here. Here Spielberg increases the tension by keeping close up shots of the kids who call him loser. When they get out of the bus the tension increases to even higher level when he uses long shot to emphasize kids running wayward in road. Another excellent camera set up happens during the petrol bunk scene where camera is placed just behind the door of washing machine. We see him as is looking through the lens.

The editing, especially the sound editing of the film is pitch perfect otherwise how’d you suppose one to sit throughout one and a half hour seeing the one driver in car and the truck. The movie doesn’t boast of exquisite graphics but still achieves what it has to.

The best thing about the movie is that we don’t know why the truck fellow is trying to kill him and we don’t even know the face but we along with the car driver want him to be alive. Spielberg just dictates how he wants us to watch the movie. Why the hunter must be always bad and the hunted must be good. It could be vice versa too. The cab driver would have made some serious problems in truck drivers’ life and maybe he could be taking revenge. Who knows? But that’s the power of Spielberg, to even tell us how to think.

Right till the end we don’t see the drivers face. When I was watching this movie with fellow movie buffs they at least wanted to know who it was. But that’s the highlight of the movie isn’t it.


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