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Review : The Last Duel – A blood-soaked must watch!

The new film from Ridley Scott stars Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck

Universal Studios

The Last Duel is a film that visually describes the 1386 events in which Marguerite de Carrouges claims to have been raped by her husband’s friend and squire Jacques Le Gris. Her husband, knight Jean de Carrouges, challenges him to trial by combat, the last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history. The events leading up to the duel are divided into the Rashomon effect with the first two reflecting the perspectives of de Carrouges and Le Gris respectively, and the third reflecting the perspective of Marguerite.

I have to be completely honest and say that I was coerced into seeing this film. I am not usually interested in European time pieces that involve royalty, or don’t at least involve a Robin Hood like character. The plight of the wealthy in the 14th century is not something that I would ever give a damn about. Hell, the plight of the wealthy in the 21st century is something I definitely don’t care about. They’re going to space! No matter, I went to see this film against my own will, and I have to say that I absolutely enjoyed the hell out of it. The Last Duel is a blood-soaked suspense drama with a message that needs to be heard.

It has been well publicized that The Last Duel experienced quite a bit of difficulty in the filming process that spread from February to October 2020. It was a wild time for us all, but it had to be truly frustrating to make a film of this capacity throughout that year. And if I’m being honest, it shows at times. Specifically, the introduction of Ben Affleck’s character honestly feels like it was his first take. It felt uncertain whether or not he was attempting some kind of an accent, but would thankfully abandon the idea. He did, because he eventually became an absolute highlight performance of the film.He was phenomenal, but it behooves me to state that while Adam Driver might have turned in his best performance yet, and Matt Damon was just fine (seeming surprised by just about every action that ever takes place? Not sure what that was meant to bring)….but, it was Jodie Comer who absolutely stole the show, and delivered what is at the very least, an Academy Award nomination worthy performance. While both Ben Affleck and Adam Driver were phenomenal, it was Comer who I believe simply could not be replaced in her role. And that, to me, is what makes a superior performance. If you couldn’t see another person doing just as well in a role, they absolutely nailed it. It feels sort of hack to say, but I would have liked to see Jesse Plemmons take on Damon’s role. I’m just saying.

This film serves not only as a glance of how ridiculous women were once treated over 600 years ago, but should make a viewer realize how damn slow progress can really be. There is a line, to paraphrase, in which a priest states “rape of a woman is not a crime, but the destruction of a man’s property is”, or at one point when Jean learns of what has happened to his wife he declares, “Is there nothing this man won’t do to me!”. As though he is the real victim in this situation. These are sentiments that could exist to this very day, and while I am not in a position to call this a “woke Ridley Scott project”, let’s just admit that it truly is that. Screenwriter Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Enough Said) clearly provides the most entertaining portion of this film, as well as the most insightful in regards to the direction in which the film ultimately decides to go. No shade to her co-writers Damon & Affleck, but it felt apparent that Holofcener was involved. Controversy be damned, I feel as though this film set out to accomplish a somewhat noble goal, and completely nailed it. It’s not perfect by any means, but The Last Duel is ultimately project as somewhat of a revenge film, but on a much less-rewarding level.

The message of the film should also not deter the idea that this was a pretty visually stimulating film. It’s actually quite a bit more gruesome than say a Gladiator or Alien of Ridley Scott past. In fact, I would dare state that this is his most graphic film post Alien, minus whatever may have happened in Alien: Covenant that really wasn’t that memorable. It could be understandable for some viewers to believe that the actual duel in a film entitled The Last Duel could have been more of a mainstay in the film. It’s fair. But in all honesty, I think it should be well understood that the duel itself was given the importance it deserves. It’s the ultimate consequence. And it is portrayed as such with dynamite, and bloody, perfection. If you were expecting to go into a 2 ½ hour film that only involved a single duel, well, I’m not sure what you think movies really are in the first place. That would be an insane thing to expect.

Overall, The Last Duel was so much more than I expected it to be, and is a genuinely pleasing film that everybody should see. The message should be clear. We still don’t believe women when we should. And if this is enough to deter you from seeing the film, you honestly won’t be missing out. Come for the message, or come for the cinematic excellence. If you can accept both, you will not be upset.

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