REVIEWS: Action & Thrillers — September 8, 2011 at 6:20 am

REVIEW: Duel (1971)

“Duel” was a “not-very-famous-then” Steven Spielberg’s first full feature film. The story is about a salesman, David Mann (Dennis Weaver), who hits the road on business, and his trip turns into hell, when a psycho driver in a giant 40 ton truck starts to terrorize him on a lonely highway.

As the movie goes on, David gets pushed on more and more to the limit, until the “monster truck” doesn’t leave him another way but to fight back.

I cannot call myself a Spielberg fan by any means (those of his films that I’ve seen, were always too “soft” for me), but “Duel” kept me interested.

From the beginning of the film, we get to know David’s character, and he turns out to be a total sissy. He looks like one, talks like one, and surely acts like one. However, later on, the “truck driver” slowly pushes David to the limit, while playing the deadly cat-and-mouse game with him.

While the movie positions itself as “an innocent man vs the big angry truck”, there’s nothing supernatural in the movie, as we do have a psycho driver, who’s behind the wheel of the killing truck.

And, he’s played by a veteran stuntman driver Carey Loftin (I had no idea who he was, but he did a great job in the film, and his film work looks outstanding, he’s also the stunt coordinator in the movie).

In the film, we never see the driver himself, true evil here is the truck, that only seems to terrorize David (we get to see the psycho driver helping out a bunch of kids in a school bus on the road).

The film might seem outdated today, but there’s great psychological tension, and a feeling of pressure (that’s what I felt): as on one hand there’s an endless road, open area, but at the same time it feels like a vacuum because of the truck always circling around you.

There are flaws, of course, as in every movie. In case with “Duel”, it’s obvious Spielberg did not have huge budget for this production, and thus, the ending of the movie was somewhat a letdown for me.

However, it doesn’t spoil the overall experience, and I highly recommend this Spielberg film to those, who haven’t seen it. It’s different from his later works, and is a cult classic.


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