(director: Ridley Scott; screenwriters: Gerald Vaughn-Hughes/from a Joseph Conrad story called “The Duel”; cinematographer: Frank Tidy; editor: Pamela Power; music: Howard Blake; cast: Tom Conti (Jacquin), Keith Carradine (D’Hubert), Harvey Keitel (Feraud), Cristina Raines (Adele), Edward Fox (Colonel Reynard), Robert Stephens (General Treillard), Albert Finney (Fouche), John McNenery (Second Major), Diana Quick (Laura), Alun Armstrong (Lecourbe), Meg Wynn Owen (Leonie), Jenny Runacre (Mme. de Lionne), Alan Webb (Chevalier); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David Puttnam; Paramount Pictures; 1977-UK)
“The accounts of the wars lack passion and left me more disinterested in this brilliant story than I should have been.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This adaptation of a Joseph Conrad short story marks the feature film directing debut of Ridley Scott (“Hannibal”/”Gladiator”/”Thelma & Louise“). He formerly directed commercials for TV. It’s set against the background of the Napoleonic Wars, in the 1800s, and tells of the fallout between two Hussar officers in Napoleon’s army, D’Hubert (Keith Carradine) and Feraud (Harvey Keitel), who for sixteen years engage in a series of personal duels until an ironic truce is called. The Keitel character is all about being obsessed with honor, and can be viewed as a metaphor for mankind’s bloody thirst for war. Feraud severely injures in a duel the nephew of the mayor of the town his regiment was staying in and another lieutenant, the Carradine character, is dispatched by the army to inform him he was to be punished. Feraud takes out his dissatisfaction with the punishment on the messenger.
The photography is stunning in the painterly way it emulates the art on the recruitment posters to color its scenes in the same way. But the slightly written story by Gerald Vaughn-Hughes is a let down in getting to the story’s more noble anti-war themes and is coldly drawn.
The accounts of the wars lack passion and left me more disinterested in this brilliant story than I should have been. Though its grim message of how easy is the sense of honor misused and a cause for unneeded conflict, should get your attention despite all the flaws.
The supporting cast of Brits, led by Albert Finney as the Napoleonic head of the Paris police, give more assured performances than the miscast American leads.
REVIEWED ON 4/3/2015 GRADE: B https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/