Rating: 18 Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck and Alex Lawther. Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Length: 152mins.
Inspired by Eric Jager’s 2004 account of France’s last officially recognised duel, Ridley Scott takes on the task of telling this medieval tale broken down into three chapters and told from three perspectives. The story is one of rape-revenge focussing primarily on three characters – Jean de Carrouges (Damon), his wife Marguerite (Comer) and Jacques Le Gris, exploring the downward spiral of de Carrouges, the arrogant rise of Le Gris and the impossible choices facing Marguerite as her husbands absence is taken advantage of.
The Last Duel gets somewhat bogged down in the mud and blood of its period; a whole mix of arrows-in-the-face type violence and war, none of which I have a problem with, but it seemed to drag the film out and distract from the main story. While it did assist somewhat in setting the scene, I didn’t feel that it was fully necessary to include so much. Having said this, the actual storytelling was really clever and very well written. Each perspective was similar enough for the audience to know what’s happening, but with brilliantly subtle changes, contrasting tone and dialogue – right up until the rape scene which was, in line with telling the story from perspectives, a significantly different event to each character.
This film was expertly cast. Adam Driver played his role perfectly, he is fully believable in his arrogance and aggression but allows an appealing vulnerability into his role that just keeps his Le Gris interesting, until, of course, you realise the sort of man he is. This is one of Matt Damon’s finer performances in recent years. He plays in contractions – he’s clearly a well respected, strong warrior, but he is overwhelmed and constantly trying to keep his head above water. We see a good amount of Damon’s range in this film, he really is a brilliant watch. Jodie Comer is phenomenal. Those of us who have watched her rise in the acting industry are very well aware of how brilliant she is but this film is a mighty task and she’s flawless. She fully holds her own while working with Hollywood A-Listers, she demonstrates depth, innocence and the complexities of her character and without her the film would not have such an impact.
Interestingly, many reviews are not speaking of The Last Duel too favourably. It seems that many issues from a reviewers point of view surround the fact that, though Comer is brilliant, the drama is centred on the men; the three part structure means Marguerite can only get one third of our attention. I can see what is being said here – it’s an important topic and it could seemingly pull focus. However, there were three parties involved at the centre of the story, the time period would not allow or listen to a woman making accusations without the backing of her husband and so I cannot see another way to tell this story. Also, the films title is The Last Duel – an act that could only be undertaken by the men, the duel is featured (perhaps taking a little too much screen time in my view…) and therefore the history of the two men, their perspectives and the journey that got them to the duel are important. The story is told, the impact on Marguerite is brilliantly portrayed and audiences are walking away with her story at the front of their mind. For me, that tells me that the film has done what it intended to do.