King Charles VI declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.
For a man in his 80s, Ridley Scott is showing no signs of slowing down with two films due out in cinemas in the next few weeks, with ‘The Last Duel’ preceding ‘House of Gucci’. ‘The Last Duel’ is a medieval drama set in the late 1300s that tells the story of the last legally sanctioned trial by combat in France, fought by two men after a rape accusation. The duel itself is a key set piece in the film and is as tense, thrilling and gruesome as we’ve come to expect from the man behind ‘Gladiator’, but for much of its runtime ‘The Last Duel‘ is a movie much more interested in perception and attitudes, and the consequences thereof, of sexual assault.
The movie follows a ‘Rashomon’ style format, in that it explores the same events through three different perspectives. They are Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), a knight who is married to Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer), and Jacques le Gris (Adam Driver), de Carrouges former squire and friend. When Marguerite accuses Jacques of rape, it sets a chain of events in motion that could lead to not only the death of one of the men, but of her own life in a horrific way. I thought this was a really excellent movie that uses its central stylistic choice to examine how individuals perceive the same events in different ways, often driven by their attitudes and prejudices. I found it interesting that ‘The Last Duel’ didn’t attempt to draw wild differences between each characters recollections (like TV’s ‘The Affair’, which used a similar conceit), with only subtle differences marking each characters memories. Instead it drives into male attitudes to woman and sex back then (and to some degree, in modern times too), and it leads into a story where one woman’s trauma is turned into a battle of male pride.
From a casting perspective I thought Adam Driver was typically superb, Matt Damon solid if a little miscast, and Ben Affleck was enjoyable as a philandering count, but this is Jodie Comer’s show and she brings a real strength and vulnerability to her portrayal of Marguerite. Those familiar with Comer’s performances in ‘Killing Eve’ will know the talent she possesses and it’s great to see her starting to get leading roles in high profile movies. At the time of writing the movie has had a slow start in box office terms to say the least, with a 155 minute long medieval drama about sexual assault potentially a tough sell for audiences. I can understand that, especially after a trying 18 months, but for those who do head along to the cinema to watch ‘The Last Duel’ you’ll find one of Ridley Scott’s best films of recent years and a movie that is both thought provoking and far more engrossing than the premise perhaps suggests.
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck, Harriet Walter, Alex Lawther, Nathaniel Parker, Sam Hazeldine, Michael McElhatton, Marton Csokas, Zeljko Ivanek and Adam Nagaitas