Duel ★★★★

Before Spielberg blew audiences away with killer sharks, friendly extraterrestrials and exotic dinosaur parks, his first feature was this tense-as-hell, high-octane road thriller that ultimately, was so good that it later received a theatrical release. And after that, the rest is history.

David sets off on a journey in his little red Valiant across the Mojave Desert. He's an average businessman who seems to have marital issues, but a far bigger problem awaits him. I guess the lesson here is not to piss off the wrong driver, but that's exactly what David does when he finds himself being pursued by a psychopath in a large Peterbilt truck who constantly torments and messes with his head.

As far as the plot goes, that's pretty much it. However, the "cat-and-mouse" simplicity of it all is what makes it work so much. Spielberg already proves to be the master of his craft here, in the way that he sets up the car chases and camera shots (like close-ups of the car dashboard and rear windows) as well as establishing the ever-increasing paranoia that David goes through (as well thanks to Dennis Weaver's performance).

But what is terrifying most of all throughout the whole ordeal, is the ambiguity of who is driving the truck. You never ever see his face, nor do you really know what his motive is, he's just out there for the purpose of making David's trip hell any way he can. Some have even speculated there's a supernatural force at work here, or if the truck is just a hallucination as part of David's stressed mental state.

It's not really identifiable as a Spielberg film, but it's still pretty remarkable seeing what he was able to achieve for such an early film of his. If you're curious to see how he started off, this is a definite must-see. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the more impressive directional debuts out there.


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