LAST DUEL, THE
(director: Ridley Scott; screenwriters: Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, based on the book by Eric Jager; cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski; editor: Claire Simpson; music: Harry Gregson-Williams; cast: Matt Damon (Sir Jean de Carrouges), Jodie Comer (Marguerite de Carrouges), Adam Driver (Jacques Le Gris), Ben Affleck (Pierre d’Alençon), Marton Csokas (Crespin), Clare Dunne (Celia), Alex Lawther (King Charles VI), Željko Ivanek (Le Coq), Tallulah Haddon (Marie), Harriet Walter (Nicole de Carrouges), Nathaniel Parker (Sir Robert de Thibouville), Adam Nagiatis (Adam Louvel); Runtime: 152; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Ridley Scott, Kevin J. Walsh, Jennifer Fox, Nicole Holofcener: 20th Century Studios; 2021)
“Finds its voice best in the final segment.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s an epic bloody historical film based on the real-life final sanctioned duel in France, as filmed by the veteran Brit action filmmaker Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner”/”Alien”). Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Nicole Holofcener, who wrote the screenplay, based it on Eric Jager’s book and tell the story in a “Rashomon” style, offering different points of view on a rape.
Set in 1386, during the Hundred Years’ War, the time of France’s last-ever trial by combat as sanctioned by the French Parliament, is seen from three perspectives: The Norman mullet wearing knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), who is loyal to the king but is a jerk. He has accused his former warrior friend Le Gris (Adam Driver) of raping his wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer); the scheming charmer Le Gris, however, denies this; but if de Carrouges loses the duel his wife Marguerite will burn at the stake (as his loss will prove he’s lying).
It plays out as an action thriller, a legal drama and a tale of social commentary.
We’re informed “Rape is not a crime against a woman” in this medieval society. Instead we learn “It is a property crime against her husband.” Furthermore, if Marguerite’s husband loses the trial-by-combat his wife will thereby be deemed a liar in God’s eyes and burned at the stake.
The film finds its voice best in the final segment, its third act, after having the two warrior men state their cases first with plenty of flash, But the last to testify is Marguerite, and she’s pictured as the brave heroine. Her compelling voice shows her as the defiant woman who rails against her society’s patriarchal travesties, and her voice relates in some ways to the modern day feminists as the voice that matters most when it comes to things about her body. We thereby find out what the lady must endure in those backward times, as the film at last comes to life. Which for some might have been too long to sit through such a heavy slog. But if you managed to make it to this point, you might like the film.
Scott soon reverts to his familiar ways of filming blood and gore, as he brings on the lance and blade fight to make it into a spectacle pic.
The fight scenes are well-executed and watchable, even if they cut into Comer’s heartfelt performance as both a strong and vulnerable woman.
REVIEWED ON 10/13/2021 GRADE: B