Ridley Scott’s historical war drama, The Last Duel, examines a dark subject matter.
Trigger warning: This film contains scenes and descriptions of rape that some viewers may find disturbing.
When it comes to directing epic battle scenes, Ridley Scott has no equal, however, The Last Duel’s true subject matter is in many ways grimmer than medieval blood and gore. The film is split into three chapters that tell the story from three different points of view. Chapter one is from the perspective of French knight Jean de Carrouges (played by Matt Damon). Damon does a fine job as the film’s lead, though this role could have been played by literally any leading man in Hollywood.
A real-life friend of Damon and frequent collaborator Ben Affleck plays Count Pierre d’Alencon. Affleck is clearly having fun in scenes where he demeans Damon’s character. Audiences will get a kick out of seeing Affleck portray a flamboyant character so different from his usual roles. The blond hair and goatee add to the absurdity.
The second chapter is from the point of view of Adam Driver’s Jacques Le Gris.
Driver gives one of the finest performances out of the entire cast in The Last Duel. He plays a well-read lady’s man who has his way with any woman he wants, even the wife of his best friend, Carrouges. Le Gris falls in love with Jodie Comer’s Marguerite de Carrouges at first sight. However, he later assaults her while her husband is away.
When Marguerite publicly accuses Le Gris, her husband challenges him to a duel. At first, thought to be outlawed, the courts realize it is perfectly legal for Jean de Carrouges and Le Gris to conduct what is essentially trial by combat. Thus making this the titular ‘Last Duel’ in French history.
The assault is depicted again in the third and final chapter that puts Lady Marguerite front and center. The film leaves no question that she is the victim, not only of assault but of the disgusting court system that vilifies, demeans, and objectifies her. Medieval France had many customs and beliefs we would find laughable today. Unfortunately, there are many unfair and sexist norms from those times that are still alive and well.
I give The Duel an 8.8 out of 10. With outstanding direction, dialogue, and costume design, The Last Duel is one of Ridley Scott’s best films in years. Unfortunately, the subject matter may make turn some viewers away. Still, the film does an admirable job deconstructing sexism and rape culture.
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