The Last Duel - Movie Review
WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) -
The Last Duel
Venerable Octogenarian Director Ridley Scott (three time best director Oscar nominee) proves he still has story telling chops in the adventure drama, The Last Duel.
Going to the movies in post-pandemic America still feels strange, or inconvenient for many movie lovers. We have gotten used to screening movies at home. This “I just want to sit home on my sofa in my pajamas” vibe has been enhanced by Warner Bros’ whose feature films for 2021 were simultaneously released on HBO Max and the big screen. Currently their release Dune seems like the perfect film to see on the big screen and not at home.
Set in the 1300′s in France, The Last Duel is based on a true story of the last judicial duel that took place in France, during the Hundred Years War. Two former colleagues and battle buddies, Jean De Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) find themselves in a feud over notoriety, land and eventually something much darker, when Carrouges’ wife Marguerite (Emmy Winner Jodie Comer) accuses Le Gris of rape. When a trial results in Le Gris’ acquittal (not surprisingly) Carrouges’ only option is to make a plea for a duel to death. Before this can happen, Marguerite must give detailed grueling testimony, where as a woman, her veracity is always questioned. She and her husband are risking everything, including their lives, if Jean loses the duel he dies, and then Marguerite will be burned at the stake-because it would indicate she committed perjury, in medieval justice. The guilt of Le Gris is based solely on the outcome of the duel, if he lives, God willed it and he is innocent.
As expected, battle scenes are full bodied and vivid. Scott, known for his visual style, hasn’t lost his touch -he gets us into the action. The intimacy of the battle scenes makes the combat even scarier. But it isn’t really a war film, or even an action film. What is surprising and most rewarding is how Marguerite’s character evolves and how the film becomes her story, even though she isn’t introduced until late in the film. I wouldn’t call The Last Duel a feminist film at all, but it is interesting how the film unfolds and how Marguerite becomes empowered.
I wouldn’t call The Last Duel a great film, the retelling of the crime from three perspectives feels a bit like an old story trope and repetitive. Without it, the film might have been shorter, which it could stand to be. That quibble aside, it is everything a good film should be, a good story, great performances, great sound, and great attention to period detail. Special kudos to Comer, who is simply stunning on screen, she has star charisma and real acting chops.
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