The Last Duel Movie Review

A period drama about a medieval duel to decide a rape verdict, The Last Duel is a film of both bone-crunching spectacle and furrowed-brow social commentary. Co-written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, with Nicole Holofcener (of the acclaimed drama ‘Good Will Hunting’) on board, Ridley Scott brings the same muscular force to this rousing historical epic as his crowd-pleaser Gladiator.

A Brutal Period Drama

Ridley Scott specializes in bloody spectacle, whether it’s ancient Rome’s dusty arenas (Gladiator) or Crusader-era Jerusalem (Kingdom Of Heaven). He delivers in spades here, but there’s something distinctly bitter beneath the gore. This movie is, at its core, about a long tradition of not believing women when they tell us they’ve been raped.

The story focuses on Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris, who faced off in 1386 over a grisly rape accusation. We see events leading up to their duel from three different perspectives.

This tripartite structure would have made the film feel like a slog if not for a spirited performance by Jodie Comer. She gives depth and meaning to a character that could easily have become one-dimensional. She also shows us that women in the 14th century were just as capable of making sense of a world they didn’t understand.

The script also makes astute observations about class, gender and justice. The crowds’ chant of “deny, deny, deny” isn’t just a piece of period kitsch; it’s a potent reminder that our ravenous appetite for bread and circuses hasn’t changed much since the days of de Carrouges and Le Gris. Even though we eventually learn that both men acted honorably, the fact that we’re still talking about this case means that they didn’t get the justice they deserved.

A Brutal Conflict

Considering Ridley Scott’s proclivity for immersing viewers in mud-stained history and the ferocity of its battles (Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven), it should come as no surprise that The Last Duel revolves around a deadly fight to the death between two men over a woman. But what makes the film so resonant today is how it deconstructs the male viewpoint of that brutal scene, letting us see it from different angles and offering different interpretations of the event. Jodie Comer stands out in particular, delivering a masterful performance as Marguerite that shifts from the vengeful wife to the cowed victim of sexual assault.

The script, by Nicole Holofcener and the ibomma telugu movies film’s three narrators, is full of procedural-like intrigue and questions of honor. The characters’ different viewpoints on the events leading up to the duel—and their interpretations of the event itself—lead to a fascinating discussion about the role of women in society, as well as a broader examination of toxic masculinity.

Unlike many films that take the view of multiple characters in a conflict, The Last Duel doesn’t fall into the trap of repetitive, tedious storytelling. Instead, each of the different accounts gives the audience a new insight into the characters and their motives. Each one of these stories also allows for a deeper understanding of the brutality of the sword fight, with each hack, slash, and thrust carrying more visual, audio, and emotional weight than you might expect.

A Brutal Finale

The Last Duel posits itself as more than just a bloody, medieval spectacle. It’s about a broader issue of truth and power, as it addresses the way differing viewpoints can confuse audiences to the point that they are unable to grasp even the most obvious of truths.

The film chronicles what was supposedly the final state-sanctioned duel in French history, fought between brute knight Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and his enemy, Le Gris. But the movie isn’t about just those men; it’s also about Marguerite, the woman de Carrouges married, who claims that Gris raped her.

Jodie Comer is fantastic in the role, with a spirited performance that elevates the film above a mere period piece. She is the center of a star-studded cast that includes Ben Affleck, who delivers a solid supporting turn as a corrupt royal official. Adam Driver rounds out the key players as a younger version of Le Gris, while screenwriter Nicole Holofcener (Good Will Hunting, Enough Said) brings her prodigious chops to the script.

Ridley Scott has always been a master at the bloody spectacle of historical dramas, whether set in Ancient Rome’s dusty arenas (Gladiator) or Crusader-era Jerusalem (Kingdom Of Heaven). It should come as no surprise that his sharp eye is fully intact in The Last Duel, and there is plenty of sword fighting to go around. Yet hidden underneath all the sword virtuosity is a rich discussion about rape and the enduring impact it can have on women.

A Brutal Conclusion

A brutal movie about a brutal time period, The Last Duel is a testament to the power of high-caliber performances. Featuring an unforgettable performance from Jodie Comer, this is one of Ridley Scott’s best movies in years. The historical drama immerses audiences into a harsh time period and presents themes that remain relevant today.

Based on Eric Jager’s nonfiction book The Last Duel, the film depicts a crime of rape and subsequent trial by combat between two noble knights in 1386 France. Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Driver) have been longtime friends, but their relationship is tested when the wife of one—a vassal to the other—claims that the other raped her.

Using a Rashomon-like structure, The Last Duel alternately illustrates the story through three perspectives. Chapter One offers the view of Jean, Chapter Two details events from Jacques’s point of view, and Chapter Three is Marguerite’s account.

Using a woman’s experience to explore a man’s world is tricky, and it can feel like a slog when done poorly. The film’s use of a woman’s pain—and the way that shifts her narrative from a victim to an agent—is one example of the film’s sensitivity failing. But despite the occasional groan-inducing scene, The Last Duel is an engrossing tale of ambition, romance, and political chicanery in medieval France under the mad king Charles VI.

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