The Last Duel 2021 movie review
One woman’s strength and courage in the service of truth are explored in this dramatic and thought-provoking drama set in the midst of the Hundred Years War, which addresses the pervasive power of men, the frailty of justice, and one woman’s strength and courage in the service of truth. Based on true events, the film dismantles long-held beliefs about France’s last officially sanctioned duel, which took place between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two former friends who became bitter adversaries. Carrouges is a well-respected knight who is well-known for his bravery and combat prowess in battle. Le Gris is a Norman squire whose wit and eloquence have earned him the reputation as one of the most admired nobles at the court of King Henry II. As a result of Le Gris’ savage assault on Marguerite Carrouges, which he denies, Marguerite refuses to remain silent, stepping forward to accuse him of the assault, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in danger. The ensuing trial by battle, a rigorous duel to the death, places the destiny of all three in the hands of the Almighty God.
Ridley Scott has created a number of period pictures that are widely considered as classics over the course of his career. If you broaden your sights to include films set in the future in the category of “period,” you’ll find more than a few options. However, with Scott, time is not always a guarantee of pleasure. His films have never been lacking in quality, at least not when one considers the importance of production value, as well as the use of slick filming and cutting. Scott, on the other hand, occasionally fails to convey a sense of vitality on the screen. While films such as “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven” pulsated with a sense of purpose, films such as “Robin Hood” and “1492: Conquest of Paradise” seemed to lack much of a sense of why they were making them.
Scott’s “The Last Duel” isn’t faultless, but it never exhibits the same lethargy as other films in the genre. It takes an unusual combination of talents to bring this medieval intrigue to life: the screenplay, which is based on true Medieval Events, is written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (who are collaborating as writers, or at the very least as credited writers, for the first time since “Good Will Hunting”), as well as Nicole Holofcener, who is best known for contemporary dramatic comedies with a satiric bite and female-centered perspectives. Affleck and Damon star in a story about selfish males who abuse authority and subjugate women, all while using cardboard ideas of ideals such as duty, loyalty, and fealty to God to justify their petty and criminal deeds.
An opening prologue depicting the beginning of a duel to the death between squires and one-time friends Sir Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris (Damon and an exceptionally tense-necked Adam Driver, respectively) sets the tone for the film’s structure, which is influenced by “Rashomon.” Damon’s de Carrouges is the subject of the very first “Truth According To Chapter.” During the Battle of Limoges, Jean saves Jacques’ life, which serves as the beginning of the episode. Then, despite the disdain with which his liege, Pierre d’Alençon, regards him, he goes on to perform more great acts (Affleck). He marries the gorgeous daughter of a former traitor, marches into battle without a second thought, and all that type of nonsense. All the while, he is watching Le Gris rise in the courtroom and swallowing his pride when Le Gris is awarded land and titles that he believes are rightly his. They are in and out of love with one another. But when Marguerite, Jean’s wife (Jodie Comer), accuses Le Gris of rape, the two are irrevocably estranged from one another.
In addition—and, while I don’t believe this is a spoiler, if you’re on the fence, you might want to skip this paragraph—rape is unquestionably involved. According to Le Gris, the truth is revealed in the next chapter. In this version of the story, Jean is a petulant, unsuitable whiner whose butt Le Gris is constantly covering; d’Alençon has little or no use for the squire in this version of the story. Marguerite, on the other hand, is someone Le Gris “sincerely” loves. According to his frame of thinking, he is entitled to take her because he is a guy and so has the right to do so. While confessing to a priest, the devoutly Catholic rapist actually admits to “adultery” rather than rape, according to the priest. He receives advice from another clergyman regarding his potential legal troubles: “Rape does not constitute an offense against a woman.” “It is a matter of ownership.”
The third chapter is titled “The Truth According to Marguerite de Carrouges,” and to emphasize the point, the words “the truth” appear on the title card for this chapter for a longer period of time than they do on the prior chapter. This is a savage passage in which both Jean and Jacques are depicted as chest-thumping brutes who take advantage of their circumstances. In Jean’s opinion, he was a compassionate husband to his wife; Marguerite’s piece is primarily concerned with his disagreement with Marguerite’s father over her dowry. And so forth. Essentially, this version of the story repeats the rape scene, which is undoubtedly important but painful to see — and, of course, that may be exactly the purpose. There are many small details that fascinate me about these different perspectives: how one character remembers a brief kiss differently than another, how a pair of shoes removed delicately at the bottom of a stair in one telling becomes shoes falling off feet as the stairs are mounted in a panicked rush, and so on.
Ultimately, it all culminates in a title duel that is, even by the high standards set by Scott’s “Gladiator,” what you would describe as “an absolute humdinger.”
There are numerous flaws in this photograph that may be pointed out. While Driver and Comer are almost inextricably linked to the film’s universe of lances, horses, and castles (as well as different vistas of Notre Dame Cathedral while it is being built), Damon and Affleck are more difficult to accept as part of the time. This is especially true given Affleck’s blond hair. There are no explicit fouls committed by any of the actors, as the screenplay has them all speaking in a lightly treated kind of American colloquial English, hence there are no Shakespearean pitfalls to be found in the film. The “Sad Affleck” meme will undoubtedly become popular among fans as soon as the first screen pictures from the film are made available to the public.
Of course, there’s the matter of “how feminist is it, exactly?” to consider. I suppose I might say “a lot,” considering that its remarks about still-current concerns hit home with some force and are arguably strengthened by the historical context of medieval hypocrisy and barbarism. Although “The Last Duel” may serve as a partial paradigm of mindfulness, it nonetheless adheres to the conventions of the period action drama genre. This should come as no surprise given the fact that this is a multi-million dollar movie from a major studio, directed by a director whose work has only occasionally ventured into the feisty independent realm. And let’s not forget that when he has done so, the results have been just as uneven as they have been throughout his career—I’m thinking “Thelma and Louise” on the positive side and “A Good Year” on the negative side.
It’s not fully buried by the imagery and commentary pursued by Scott and crew when they’re doing their best work—and the imagery, most of it anchored in a palette that could be a tribute to its anti-hero, whose last name translates as “the gray,” is frequently stunning.
The film will be released exclusively in theaters on Friday, October 15th.