Duel (1971)


Salesman David Mann is the victim of extreme road rage as a trucker persecutes him on a long cross-country car journey.

Seen before? No, first viewing.

Best performance: Burt Reynolds-a-like Dennis Weaver is in every scene and holds the whole thing together well. He gets increasingly deranged as we go along.

Best scene/moment/sequence: After being run off the road in a small town, David staggers into a bar, washes his face in the gents, wanders back into the bar and is spooked to see the truck parked outside – all done in one tense handheld shot.

Review: Simplistic and streamlined, this TV movie (which was cinema-released in the UK) is a great concept mined for as much tension as possible. It’s incredibly visceral, thanks to Spielberg’s smart choice to shoot it entirely on location, the great use of rumbling sound design, and the way the truck is filmed as if it were a monster: it growls and prowls and fills the frame like a lion, and the fact we never properly see its driver is a clever move too, dehumanising and demonising the vehicle further. Even this early, the whole movie is very Spielberg – there are inventive shots galore, while it’s about an everyman facing fantastic threats. It reminded me a lot of other rural car-chase movies, such as Vanishing Point, Mad Max and Death Proof – yet also felt like a horror film. Perhaps David’s internal-monologue voiceover is a bit on the cheesy side, but in a film about an isolated and friendless guy it’s hard to see how to avoid it. Entertaining stuff.

Seven Plymouth Valiants out of 10.


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