The Last Duel (\N)

King Charles VI declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.
  • 7.4 / 10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Shaun Grant, Eric Jager, Writer:
  • Francis Lawrence, Director:
  • Jeff Robinov, Erwin Stoff, Producer:

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Trailer:

10 / 10

It takes two to ...

... Duel I reckon should be the thing that would fill out the sentence. On the other hand, we are talking duels here, so maybe that is what I meant to write, yes? Also it takes more than two in this case ... but as with the role played here that seems almost sidelined by events and how the characters feel things happened.

You can call this feminist I reckon, on the other hand it may just be showing something that was way worse in the middle ages, but still exists in some way, shape or form today. Something that is shameful when it comes to the role of the woman and her standing in society. Also how she is being treated and seen by two men. I had absolutely no idea what the story was going to be (apperantly based on a true story and characters), so others may be at a (dis)advantage if they know more before watching it.

But even the trailer that seems to reveal a lot, does not give you everything. Which is good, because there is a lot to explore. And while we are revisiting certain moments and scenes, they are always kept fresh and with a new perspective. Ridley Scott is a master when it comes to the technical side of filmmaking there is no doubt about that, the story here is also so strong that both elements fuse into something quite incredible.

One thing I should notice. While there is not that much action considering the run time (which never gets dull or boring), when violence and fights erupt, they are as bloody and visceral as they can get! If you are faint hearted you may not want to watch certain scenes alltogether ... if you do you are in for a treat - no pun intended.

7 / 10

Grand scale search for the truth...

Sir Ridley Scott has stitched together quite a compelling watch here, depicting well, as it does, the rather pyramidical feudal system that provided the legal and cultural structure of life in 14th century Europe. The film centres around allegations made by "Lady Marguerite" (Jodie Comer) that during the absence of her war-hero husband "Sir Jean" (Matt Damon) she was subjected to the unwanted attentions of powerful squire "le Gris" (Adam Driver). By way of a legal presentation to King Charles VI, the narrative now presents us with three equally plausible tales of just how these events may have unfolded. A tale of the initial friendliness between the men and of the ambition, greed, politics and fickleness that led to their current predicament. I cannot say that Damon is particularly good, nor is the blondly coiffured Ben Affleck particularly impressive as their overlord "Pierre d'Alencon", but both Driver and Comer offer us strong and characterful performances as each of their stories are rendered to the Court. The different versions are largely the same, there are but subtle and nuanced variations that you might, were you to be on a jury, have to identify and evaluate - in the end there are no forensics, there is no evidence as such - it is all about whom you believe. Again, this makes the film more interesting. It's not just whom you believe, but whom you want to believe, whom you think you ought to believe. There is the powerful church to consider; the local lords - decisions cannot be made according simply to any "rule of Law" or "code of chivalry". The duel - letting God decide - is the culmination (we see this at the very start of the film before our deliberations begin), but the cleverness of Scott and the writers here is to present us with as near facts as they can - we are left to make our own assessment. We are left to look at the way in which land and people - high born, or otherwise - were pawns in a game knowingly, or otherwise, that frequently became matters of life or death. The photography reminded me a little of the recent "The King" (2019) in that the filthy, muddy, damp and rat-infested conditions in which even the grandees lived are presented authentically and that adds loads to the overall feel of the film. The weather being often cold and wet, the battles being fierce and bloody - all of this contributes well to the strong visual imangery. It is a long film, but I found the episodic nature carried that rather well and the last twenty minutes are certainly worth sticking around for.

8 / 10

an old story, different points of view

Ridley Scott is almost 84 years old, but age does not seem to diminish his ambitions or his film-making appetite. 'The Last Duel' proves once again that the English-born director is one of those cinematic forces that manages to make of the films of the big studios interesting productions and that have something to say, but at the same time films spectacular enough to satisfy fans of Hollywood commercial productions. 'The Last Duel' is a historical film but at the same time seems very contemporary in theme, a film that brings on the screen a few of the most famous actors and gives them the opportunity of roles different from the patterns of their previous creations. Overall, success has accompanied Ridley Scott in his career, but it has never been a comfortable success for viewers, nor has it left a feeling of compromise. The same thing will happen, I beleive, with 'The Last Duel'.

The story takes place in the 14th century, and yet the 'based on true events' warning that opens it is justified, because it is based on a famous case, recorded by historical chronicles, debated and discussed not only at the time it happened but also in the decades and the centuries that followed, in fact to the present day. Matt Damon and Adam Driver play Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two French knights during the reign of Charles VI and the Hundred Years' War between the kingdoms of France and England. At the beginning, they are united by a friendship born on the battlefield that turns into time in rivalry related to a property coveted by one and acquired by the other, but also by the differences between the temperaments, education and morals of the two. The conflict turns into a deadly rivalry when Carrouges' wife accuses Le Gris of rape. It is a case that today would seem to be taken from the news of the day, one of those in which there are no witnesses and the testimony of the woman and the man are in balance. But we are in the Middle Ages, the testimony of women is not considered equal, and such conflicts between knights can be resolved through a 'judiciary duel' that is a life and death fight, in which God is left to decide, sparing the winner and his honor while the defeated is punished with death. The historical truth in this case has been disputed for centuries and is still shrouded in uncertainty. Not for Ridley Scott and the film's audience. To present the different perspectives of this case, the history of the events leading to the duel is told three times in succession, from the perspective of Carrouges, Le Gris and Marguerite de Carrouges. It is not a completely new process, it has been used in other films including 'Rashomon', one of Kurosawa's masterpieces, which also had as its theme the story of a rape. However, the screenplays for the three stories are written here by three different authors - Matt Damon, Ben Affleck (also acting in a different role in the film) and Nicole Holofcener - and it is possible that this invention will bring an Academy Award for original script to the movie. As in many similar events, the perspectives on the case are different not only between the participants but also between those who discuss and interpret the facts, both now and in the historical perspective. But there should be only one truth.

The production has all the characteristics of a Ridley Scott film. The cinematography is by Dariusz Wolski, with whom Scott has worked on his last three films, who brings to the screen the vision of a bloody and cold Middle Ages, in which the light and heat of the sun can be perceived only in the final scene. Adam Driver seems to have been born at that time and in that role, but when does this not happen with this extraordinary actor? Scott Comer is remarkable in the role of Margeurite de Carrouges - beautiful, dignified, fighting for her own honor and justice against all odds. Matt Damon also has a consistent role, but I confess that I failed to fully understand his character - maybe because he is too far from me in time and mentality. Ben Affleck, an actor I consider more intelligent than talented, has an odd role and blond hair. An interesting role (of Jean de Carrouges' mother), somewhat of composition, is the one acted by Harriet Walter, but I had the feeling that the dialogue between her and Marguerite could lead to something much more interesting if it was pursued deeper. The last actor I will mention is Alex Lawther who makes the role of the unstable Charles VI (called at first the Beloved and later the Mad) an appearance hard to ignore. 'The Last Duel' is quality feminist cinema and a solid and interesting film, which will find its place in the list of Academy Awards nominations. I liked it at many moments. Like many other Ridley Scott's movies, it impressed me but it failed to move me. This barrier has not disappeared.

9 / 10

A lot of great dynamics and incredible Gladiator vibes

I'm glad I got to see this after interviewing to work at my near by theater well worth it! Jodie Cromer is a riveting actress she has some powerful moments and I really hope The Last Duel gets nominated. Ridley Scott still makes amazing movies decades into his career! The action is incredibly visceral, set design is massive it all felt so authentic and the dialogue was perfect. This movie was meant for the big screen so much of it was cinematic.

Sorry for my review but I did love it!

8 / 10

A challenging and gripping medieval drama

His best film since 2007's American Gangster, Ridley Scott's newest two hour plus dramatic epic The Last Duel see's the esteemed British director team up with stars and screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (with help on the writing front from fellow filmmaker Nicole Holofcener) to deliver a gripping, confronting and even grueling examination of one of France's most infamous duels of the middle ages that may not appear to be on paper as tension ridden and engaging as it is as a finished product.

Those expecting more Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood or Gladiator old school Scott may be disappointed by what Duel offers, despite the fact the infrequent battle scenes here are some of the best you've likely seen on the big screen in some time, but as the film breaks away into three distinct acts exploring the version of events that form the crux of this story from the viewpoint of Matt Damon's dedicated knight Jean de Carrouges, Adam Driver's charming but potentially devious squire Jacques Le Gris and Jodie Comer's intelligent but repressed wife Marguerite, Duel becomes one of Scott's most incendiary and challenging films of his long-standing career.

Duel takes its time to get its full head of steam in momentum, with viewers likely to find themselves trying hard to wrap their minds around everything going on in the early stages of the film with Scott rushing around through time and locations to get Duel to the place it needs to be to really take hold but once it finds its groove, the brilliant collection of performances (with Ben Affleck a surprising joy also in small amounts of screen-time as the blond haired royal Pierre d'Alen?on) and clever way of exploring a life defining moment for all involved and what lead them to the particular instance in time ensuring Duel will have you under its spell right up until a heart pounding and masterfully staged finale.

Amongst all the technical prowess and storytelling genius are a number of intriguing sub stories to take note of with Duel offering rising British star Jodie Comer her biggest Hollywood breakthrough yet, with her turn as the charming Marguerite likely to get her attention at the soon to arrive awards season, why the ever impressive Driver is as good as his ever been as the smirking, devilishly charming and detestable Jacques Le Gris.

It's a real shame that by the time many would've seen Duel the story that will prevail most prominently about this mature and topical production will be around its noteworthy failings to capture audiences at the box office booths around the world and in a time and place where these type of adult oriented dramas are becoming less common commodities, it's a real shame Scott's best work in decades will have to work hard in the year's to come to find its true worth in audiences minds.

Final Say -

It's not always easy to watch but The Last Duel is one of the best examples of the medieval drama in some time and with a raft of quality performances and smart filmmaking, Ridley Scott's latest films stands out as one of the best mainstream releases of 2021.

4 gloves out of 5.