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The Last Duel – Movie Review

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The Last Duel – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Studios

Ridley Scott started his prolific feature directing career with The Duellists, so it’s fascinating to see him return to a similarly titled period piece with The Last Duel. Tackling some extremely difficult subject matter, the film takes the approach of showing the same events from three different perspectives. Owing a certain debt to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, this curious approach to telling the story ends up highlighting some of the flaws. While certainly well made, the first two acts of The Last Duel are a tad dry in their presentation. It’s during the third act when Jodie Comer’s Marguerite takes centre stage that the film actually begins to properly explore the themes.

As expected from Ridley Scott, there is a lot to scope to the battle scenes and the way he uses the medieval locations. He wants to transport the viewer back to 14th century France and the production team deserves credit for their work. A bit of that immersion is lost when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck appear and barely disguise their Bostonian accents, although it’s somewhat understandable why they wouldn’t want to try sounding French. Of the male cast members, Adam Driver feels the most fitting to the time period and does his best in showing Jacques Le Gris’s deviousness.

Unfortunately, the characterizations for Le Gris and Damon’s Jean de Carrouges are disappointingly thin. Most of their scenes are flat and stoic and even though we spend a considerable amount of screentime with them, they remain largely one-dimensional. Ben Affleck and Damon are talented writers, but they appear to struggle with the old-timey manner of speaking. However, Scott’s direction doesn’t do much to enliven the proceedings, either. There are a lot of scenes of characters sitting around and airing their grievances and they remain stodgy and stuffy in their presentation. Seeing the same scene from a different character’s perspective is certainly interesting, but that only slightly helps the film.

The Last Duel does pick up when we get to Marguerite’s telling of events. Nicole Holofcener wrote that portion of the screenplay and she seems to have a better handle of how to explore the characters, especially Marguerite. Jodie Comer is also fantastic in the role, capturing the way Le Gris’s actions have traumatised her. The movie seeks to comment on the “Me Too” movement through these historical figures, but it’s mostly surface level until the third act starts. Watching this part of the film makes one curious if the film as a whole would have been more engaging if it was entirely from Marguerite’s point-of-view.

The Last Duel is a noble effort from Ridley Scott, who continues to be a director with an interest in telling in any kind of story in any genre. This isn’t the first historical epic he’s made, but the subject matter does require a certain delicacy that the film only manages to handle in the last third. Most of the movie is a bit of a slog with little standing out about it or the people on-screen. The film really belongs to Jodie Comer, who understands the precise note to play Marguerite and what she’s going through. Elsewhere, we’re mostly watching Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Adam Driver playing dress-up.

Stefan Ellison

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