Duel (1971) Review

So after watching Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and hungering for more films with great tension, I tried to find more films like it. And I ended up finding an old TV movie called  Steven Spielberg’s Duel. This film was a good choice because it was so great that I may consider it one of my favorite films by Spielberg. The plot concerns about a guy named David Mann, played by Dennis Weaver, who is on his way to an appointment out of his town. While on the road he runs into an old tanker truck that is kind of messing around with him. However while driving some more he realizes that the truck driver has some serious road rage and is probably trying to kill him. So it’s up to him to try to survive. This film is a very engaging movie with heart-pounding tension. Mostly because of Spielberg’s camerawork and direction. The script is by Richard Matheson who also wrote the novels I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man which both were turned into movies. Matheson was inspired by a real life event where he was driving by a crazy truck driver on the highway. Originally published in a Playboy Magazine [no joke] the story was picked up by Universal Studios. Spielberg immediately picked up the project and thus the film Duel was born. Like I said earlier this was originally a TV movie that was gonna premier on ABC’s Movie of the Week special. However the film was so well done that I forgot that it even was a TV movie. In fact it was shown in theaters overseas. Dennis Weaver did a great job portraying David Mann. He really felt like he was actually worried for his life and not a person acting as a character. The other character everyone remembers is the truck. Spielberg worked hard to make the truck look like some kind of monster. In a mini documentary on the DVD I got called A Conversation with Steven Spielberg gave more details on how he choose the truck. He thought the tanker had a face like how the windows are the eyes, the front end is a huge snout, and the grill and front bumper is the mouth. Plus they used makeup as well to make it look like a horrid creature like the Wolfman or a Mummy. Spielberg wanted the truck look like a veteran of road murders by making it look scruffy and giving it oil marks. Plus you never see the truck driver’s face. Sure you see his boots or his hands sometimes and in you kind of get a glimpse of the stunt man, Carey Loftin’s face however you never get a clear look at his face. I’ve never felt so nervous in a movie ever. In the climax David is trying to get up a hill and his car is over-heating and starts to slow down with the truck close behind. That one scene is very nerve-racking. Or how about another scene where he stops in a diner and realizes that the truck driver may be in the diner with him. Scenes like that make this film interesting. But like every movie it’s not flawless. For some reason David still feels the need to get to this appointment even though this maniac has been trying to kill him and still is stalking him all the way. At that point I would’ve turned around and gone home instead of constantly putting my life on the line. Also how come David has to stop a couple times to get gas when the big truck still pushes forward. I assume that a truck that’s going over 50 miles an hour and is hauling a heavy tank would burn a lot fuel. Or maybe he has a bunch of gas in his tanker and there’s a secret line pumping it into his truck all the time. But despite those flaws the film still holds up. I enjoy chase movies like the Mad Max films and this was a great one for the books. I highly recommend this movie to everyone reading this review right now.


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