Time: 153 minutes
Age Rating: Graphic violence, sex scenes, offensive language, rape & cruelty
Matt Damon as Sir Jean de Carrouges
Adam Driver as Jacques Le Gris
Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges
Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d’Alençon
Director: Ridley Scott
Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is a respected knight known for his bravery and skill on the battlefield. Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) is a squire whose intelligence and eloquence makes him one of the most admired nobles in court. When Le Gris viciously assaults Carrouges’ wife (Jodie Comer), she steps forward to accuse her attacker, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in jeopardy. The ensuing trial by combat, a gruelling duel to the death, places the fate of all three in God’s hands.
The Last Duel was a movie I was looking forward to. It’s a medieval drama directed by Ridley Scott, and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon would be involved with writing the script (their first writing collaboration since Good Will Hunting) along with being some of the main actors alongside Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. The only issue going in was the premise of the movie, and it seemed like it could be completely mishandled, especially with the topic of rape being front and centre. It was a lot better than I was expecting, and I’d even consider The Last Duel to be one of my favourite movies of the year.
The writing from Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck is great. First of all, the plot structure of the script is worth mentioning. This movie has been compared to Rashomon for good reason, we see much of the events of the plot from three different perspectives. The first segment follows Jean (Matt Damon), and for me this was the weakest segment. In all fairness it did have a lot working against it. It felt awkward as it’s the first perspective we see, it is setting up and establishing a lot of characters and the setting, it’s a bit slow, and it’s not as interesting as the other sections. I do feel that it would probably improve on rewatches, but then again, most people who watch this movie won’t be particularly inclined to watch it again. It’s when you get onto the second segment following Jacques (Adam Driver) where it really picks up, as it adds more layers to the events and overall story. It’s at that point that you realise that some of the events in that segment differ from Jean’s perspective, some subtle, some major, whether it be the performances or the dialogue, and it’s cleverly done. The second and third segments also sometimes repeat scenes but its usually to show the differences, and as a result they are much better paced and more interesting. However what makes the movie work is the third segment, following the perspective of Marguerite (Jodie Comer). That’s the section where everything comes together. First of all, I like how they establish that Comer’s perspective isn’t just her perspective, but also the absolute truth of what happened. It’s by far the most emotional and impactful segment of the film. Everything becomes clear, it displays the pride and the ego of the two duellists, and shows everything that Marguerite had to go through., The Last Duel is about rape, sexual assault and misogyny, and that by itself makes it a hard movie to watch (and you do see a rape scene in the second and third perspectives), but for what it’s worth, I thought that these tough subject matters was handled carefully. Despite building towards it the whole film, the titular duel is not portrayed as a glorious battle, in the context it is shown as two men really battling over their pride and egos. This movie is long at 2 hours and 30 minutes, and I thought that it earns its long runtime and uses it very well.
The acting is great, and everyone does well at playing their parts. First and foremost, this is Jodie Comer’s movie. It might not feel that way at first in the first two segments. However when it gets to her segment, she is incredible and delivers a really powerful performance. Matt Damon and Adam Driver play the two duellists. Out of the main 4 actors, Damon is probably the weakest and most out of place in the film, but I still think he was good (questionable accent aside). Adam Driver is great as always and was very convincing in his part. A scene stealer is surprisingly a blonde Ben Affleck in a supporting role as a count. He’s really funny and memorable and injects a lot of humour into this movie in his screentime.
Ridley Scott directs this film really well but that’s to be expected, it’s certainly strong on a technical level. The cinematography is beautiful and fitting for the tone of the movie. I was particularly impressed with the editing, mainly with how they portrayed the repeated events from different perspectives. The production design and costumes are effective and authentic, placing you right in the time period. There are battle scenes outside of the whole final duel which they are excellently brutal and grimy, probably the most graphic battle scenes that Scott has ever done. However its clear that most of these are only there long enough to establish that the battles happen, with most of them lasting 1-2 minutes. When it does come to the final battle, it is truly tense, brutal and fantastically done. From the choreography to the camerawork, it ends the film on a really high note. The music from Harry Gregson-Williams is also solid, really fitting the movie.
An amazing, dark, brutal and uncomfortable medieval drama, The Last Duel was way better than I thought it would be. The script is great with an effective narrative structure, it is directed incredibly well, and features some outstanding performances, especially from Jodie Comer. It is definitely not an easy movie to watch by any means, and isn’t one of Scott’s most rewatchable movies. However, it is great and along with it being one of 2021’s best, I think I consider it to be one of Ridley Scott’s all-time best films. It’s unfortunate that it seems to be bombing at the box office, I do really think it is worth checking out if you haven’t already.