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CFF Review: Isaac Rathe’s ‘Duel on the River’

CFF Review: Isaac Rathe’s ‘Duel on the River’

This movie is budget filmmaking at it’s finest: it’s rough, violent, cheesy at times, and just plain fun to watch! Isaac Rathé’s “Duel on the River” is an aptly titled love letter to Steven Spielberg’s debut classic “Duel” that, as you’d expect, takes the stress-inducing chase from the open road to the open water. Made entirely during the pandemic as a way to make valuable use of their free time, Isaac and the crew put this together for only $2,000 which makes it all the more impressive.

There’s not a perfect movie here by any means, the acting from a couple of characters in particular isn’t great and there’s some rough editing/audio mixing at times. However what “Duel on the River” lacks in technical prowess, it greatly makes up for in heart and execution of concept. This is quite literally “Duel” on the river, and it pits a soul-searching young man in a newly purchased kayak against a drunken, gun-toting psychopath in a motorboat. Despite being a bit rough around the edges at times there’s some really cool and creative camerawork in this movie: cool shots going in and out of the water, tracking shots following the boats, and clever uses of camera angles to add suspense. It’s all executed with a clear eye for composition as well, nearly every take has interesting framing/focal points.

The music choices and overall tone of the film feel exactly like a 1970’s low budget thriller that’s been magically brought into a 2021 setting with a fresh, updated vehicle (pun very much intended) driving the narrative. All three leads are great in their respective roles (the director’s brother Darius Rathé actually plays the main character) but there’s an especially great performance from the self-titled “Defender of the River,” played by Kitu Turcas. There’s a lot of laughs, plenty of thrills, and some fun action sequences throughout “Duel on the River” so if you head into this expecting a rip-roaring homage to the classic made for a new generation, you surely won’t be disappointed!