Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon
Starring: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck, Harriet Walter, Nathaniel Parker, Sam Hazeldine, Michael McElhatton, and Alex Lawther
Ridley Scott’s latest epic The Last Duel, shows that the director hasn’t lost the magic. It’s another film in a long line of instant greats that Scott has managed to produce for almost fifty years. The Last Duel tells the true medieval story of a trial by combat. Marguerite de Carrouges(Jodie Comer) accuses Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of rape. Due to the law of the time, this can only be contested by her husband, Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), who challenges Jacques to a duel to the death, letting God reveal the truth.
The film is told in three chapters, the first Jean de Carrouges version of the events, followed by Jacques Le Gris and finally Marguerite’s side. It’s the perfect way to tell a story that has been debated by historians for centuries. Through the three versions, we get to witness how the same events can be seen completely different by those involved. Each version has differences that range from subtle to completely changing events. It keeps the narrative interesting and engaging throughout it’s two and a half hour run time. Even though the film goes over the same points, the nuanced differences are crafted so amazingly by the superb cast, writing and direction that it’s never boring.
The three interwoven chapters build to one of the tensest climactic fights in cinema history. By the time the destined duel actually takes place, you feel like you know the three main characters. The stakes are very real, and the fighting is so brutal that your heart stops. If Jean loses then his wife will be burnt alive for baring false witness. It’s a tragic true story that really captures your attention and keeps it for the whole time.
The performances are extraordinary. Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck all deserve awards for how great they are in the film. Their performances are exceptional, filled with emotion and subtlety. The way each of them differs in the different telling of the events, to the smallest detail, gives the film so much needed depth. Some of the difference, the changing lines of dialogue, the looks they give it each, they are so small, but mean so much. It’s also an excellent script that tells the story in the most engaging way possible.
The rape is shown twice, once through the eyes of Jacques and once through Marguerite’s. The difference in how they saw the events is palpable, but at no point is it exploitative. It’s a vital moment in the film, that’s uncomfortable to watch and as brutal as the final duel.
The film also has many grand moments, from massive fights, the wide landscape and buildings of medieval France, parties, and the duel itself. The sets look incredible, the costumes feel authentic and accurate, and you really get a sense of what life was like. It’s not just the visuals that capture the time, it’s the outdated attitudes and ideas as well.
The Last Duel sadly feels all to relevant today. It’s a story that we’ve all seen in the news regularly over the last few years. The film doesn’t get too involved in the actual trial, before the duel was decided (which is really interesting if you get the time to read up on it). The performances are excellent, the storytelling is nuanced and just pure genius. Ridley Scott is one of the greatest directors of all time and he’s created another masterpiece with The Last Duel. It’s a horrific and barbaric story, that really shows we haven’t progressed as far as we would like to think in the almost seven hundred years since the events take place.