Director Ridley Scott giving movie viewers a #MeToo themed story set in medieval times probably would have been way too on the nose three years ago when the term was coined. But in 2021, it’s a little less transparent and still appropriate with its themes and morals. Scott’s The Last Duel takes the plot, narrative and story structure of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) and mixes it with a similar setting and battle action of Scott’s own Gladiator (2000).
Scott is a living legend in Hollywood as the man behind the classics Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and Thelma & Louise (1991), yet he’s also responsible for duds like 1492 (1992), The Counselor (2013) and Alien: Covenant (2017). With film fans already aware and prepared for the filmmaker’s inconsistencies, we know that The Last Duel could go either way before we start the picture.
In late 14th century France, two knights—Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques le Gris (Adam Driver)—begin their story as close friends and confidants while serving for King Charles VI (Alex Lawther) and Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck). The friendship comes to an immediate halt when Jacques secretly buys land that was intended to be the dowry of Jean’s new wife, Marguerite de Thibouville (Jodie Comer). Things get worse when Marguerite accuses Jacques of rape and the only legal way to resolve the crime is for the two men to fight to the death in a duel.
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Because Scott is a traditionally seasoned filmmaker, all of the French characters in this Hollywood production speak in either English or fancy American accents. This tactic is always amusing with its blatant inaccuracy, but I would rather hear movie stars speak English language dialogue with their more natural voices than with fake Euro accents, if I’m being honest.
When The Last Duel was first announced, most couldn’t get past how out of place A-listers Damon and Affleck sounded in this kind of piece. And while it takes a while to accept Damon as a co-lead in 1380s France with his bowlcut-meets-mullet, Affleck is entertaining enough and appears to be having fun with his flamboyance and bleached hair. Driver portrays one of his more despicable characters believably, and I enjoyed Lawther as the very young and bored king who couldn’t care less about his responsibilities.
I think what I enjoyed most about THE LAST DUEL was the performances. Matt Damon turns in some of his best work, Ben Affleck, Marton Csokas and Adam Driver are just having fun, Alex Lawther leans into being a bored king, and Jodie Comer really drives the last half of the film.
— Emmanuel❣️ (@em_umoh) October 15, 2021
The biggest accomplishments of The Last Duel are from the screenplay and Comer’s performance. Following her acclaimed stints on the UK series “My Mad Fat Diary” (2013-15) and “Killing Eve” (2018- ), Comer officially breaks through onto the big screen with Shawn Levy’s Free Guy and The Last Duel. The two movies could not be any more different, and impressively show the actress’ range and versatility. In The Last Duel, we go from seeing Marguerite as submissive to coquettish to defiant by the end of the epic, with nuance and nurture. Comer holds her own opposite the big names in the cast, making me hope she gains some hype for the next awards season.
See the unbelievable true story of one woman’s word against the world. Jodie Comer stars in Ridley Scott’s #TheLastDuel, now playing only in theaters. Get tickets now – https://t.co/iG28NccF9t pic.twitter.com/o560szqkwZ
— The Last Duel (@TheLastDuelFilm) October 18, 2021
Another thing that crossed people’s minds when The Last Duel was announced was how a male director and two male screenwriters—Damon and Affleck—were going to successfully pull off this storyline from the woman’s perspective. It’s even more impressive that the message flows so fittingly in the final cut. I can only assume a big part of this success is because indie filmmaker Nicole Holofcener was on board as one of the screenwriters and producers. Though her background is in intimate romcoms and character studies like Lovely and Amazing (2001), Enough Said (2013) and co-writing Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018); Holofcener must be comfortable going this far back in time with her writing, as the motives and development of the characters feel natural and well executed.
The Last Duel was so good. I think it’s my favorite movie I’ve seen this year so far. This script and the way the story plays out is so creative and thoughtful. This is Ridley Scott’s best in years and HUGE PROPS to Nicole Holofcener on the screenplay. pic.twitter.com/lyHNIiY2La
— ms-eggy (she/her) (@mseggy1) October 15, 2021
Refreshingly, there’s no nudity featured during the orgy and rape scenes and very little foul language. But Scott’s new historical drama still warrants its R rating with some particularly grueling violence during the battles. If you can handle the subject matter and graphic visuals in between, The Last Duel is an exceptional take on an always relevant topic.
— The Last Duel (@TheLastDuelFilm) October 12, 2021
Does The Last Duel look interesting to you? Do you enjoy star-studded costume dramas? Let us know in the comments!
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