Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Is it embarassing that I had never seen Duel before? Maybe a little. Actually, I had seen maybe half of it before, in random sections, on TV. But never the entire thing.
This is pretty accomplished filmmaking, considering thet Spielberg was only in his 20's when he made it. Just goes to show how naturally talented he is. And obviously, it's his skill with film that drives (get it, it's a pun) Duel. That's a given, duh, we all know he's great, but you also got to give a lot of credit to Dennis Weaver in the lead role. I don't think the suspense would work nearly as well if we didn't believe him as a normal guy. That's a typical way thrillers try to engage us, by placing an "everyman" in some sort of dangerous situation, but they don't always do it this well. I don't know about you, I love Hitchcock and Cary Grant to death, but Grant always struck me as way too funny and way too cool to be believable as joe schmo nobody. Weaver, on the other hand, seems like a regular dude who is woefully unequiped to deal with the crazy situation he finds himself in. He projects a certain vulnerability, especially in his voice, and you can't help but fear for his safety.
And you have to respect the way the film streamlines the story in order to get to the goods. It's about a guy driving down a barren highway, who is attacked by some crazy truck driver. We never find out who the truck driver is (or even see his face), and never find out why he's trying to kill Weaver. And you know what, who gives a shit? Plots in these movies are usually arbitrary anyways, just an excuse to get to the action. Adding in a bunch of exposition wouldn't help Duel be any scarier. Instead, it's upfront about it's intentions: it's a technical exercise in thriller filmmaking. And a darn good one.