CinemaClown’s review published on Letterboxd:
Steven Spielberg's feature film debut is a highly underrated masterpiece which presents the then-new filmmaker making remarkable use of his talent, creativity & passion for storytelling to craft a mystery-thriller that remains nail-bitingly tense from start to finish, and is the first entry in what would later become one of the most celebrated film careers of all time.
Initially conceived as a TV film & later turned into a full-length theatrical, Duel concerns a business commuter who is stalked & terrorized by a psychotic truck driver throughout the Californian desert highway for no specified reasons. The story is mostly narrated visually & makes minimal use of dialogues or music yet there is an eerie atmosphere it retains throughout its runtime which is brilliantly executed.
Spielberg's direction here shows the incredible amount of aptitude & craftsmanship he possesses along with the promise of bigger things to come from him in the later years, which actually came out way lot bigger than anticipated. Cinematography is no short of spectacular as well since Spielberg makes clever use of camera angles here, including the wide-angle shots.
Dennis Weaver delivers a very good performance as the terrified motorist being chased by the mysterious tanker truck whose driver remains mostly unseen throughout the picture. The truck featured in the film is a menacing, unstoppable character in itself, and what Spielberg manages to accomplish here with such limited resources is no short of impressive.
People cite Jaws as Spielberg's first masterpiece only because Duel remains unseen by most even to this date. While Jaws was no doubt his breakthrough feature, Duel is where he first implemented the methods that he would later execute so magnificently in that watershed chiller. On an overall scale, Duel is one of the strongest debuts for any director, and seamlessly works as a riveting thriller that deserves much more recognition than it has garnered so far. Strongly recommended.