79 / 100
Watchable Minutes : 120 / 152. There’s just a bit too much fluff and nothingness in this movie. A sharp 2 hour run time would have tightened everything up and made it a little smoother.
Trailer Comparison : This is an awesome trailer, like one of the best I’ve seen in the past few years. However, it is not nearly as action packed and dramatic as it would have you believe.
Movie or Film : This is what I could call a film. There’s more at stake here and a powerful message than the title would suggest. The duel in question merely a backdrop for the actual drama and while this film isn’t particularly good by my opinion, it’s still worth talking about.
- Run time : 2 hrs 32 minutes
- Studio : 20th Centry Studios
- Director : Ridley Scott
- Where to Watch : In Theaters
Late in the 1300s, a young woman named Margueritte is married to a squire named Jean de Carrouges. He is portrays himself to be an honorable man who acts boldly. His friend, Jacques Le Gris is also a squire and he soon wins the favor of the newly appointed lord of the land, Pierre d’Alençon. As they drift apart in rank and society, Le Gris’s attention is caught by Margueritte. What follows is a tale of lust and truths and honor.
The Last Duel is a film about the last sanctioned duel in the kingdom of France. However, there’s a lot more going on here than the title would suggest. It’s a real-life story that occurred in the late 1300s that is centered around a powerful group of individuals in the countryside of medieval France. There’s a lot of moving pieces in a story like this and while it would be esay to focus on just one perspective for the entire movie, The Last Duel employs a strategy to take one story and analyze it from three different perspectives.
Chapter 1 is the truth as Sir Jean de Carrouges told it. In his truth, de Carrouges saved the life of his friend Jacques Le Gris during a battle in which de Carrouges hastily disobeyed orders based on his gut and propensity to act without thinking. When de Carrouges returns home with Le Gris, the two squires learn that there is a new overlord named Pierre d’Alençon that they must now swear fealty to. d’Alençon is cousins with King Charles VI of France and has considerable power in court and is not afraid to use it. Le Gris is appointed to be a tax collector for d’Alençon and soon earns his favor. de Carrouges has no funds to pay his taxes and Le Gris offers to speak with d’Alençon to help out his friend. As de Carrouges searches for a way to retain his honor and pay his debts, he marries a woman whose father is wealthy but is also considered to be a traitor to the crown. The woman he marries is named Margueritte and she is quite beautiful and educated to a degree that brings her to the attention of Le Gris. After failing to produce an heir, de Carrouges goes to fight in Scotland to defend the crown. While he is gone, Le Gris breaks into his home and assaults Margeuritte under the assumption that she is just as infatuated with him and he is with her. When de Carrouge returns home, Marguerite tells him of her abuse and he steps up to defend her honor. He challenges Le Gris to a duel after bringing the matter to the king of France.
The second chapter is largely the same, except it is told from Le Gris’s point of view. In his truth, it is him who saves the life of de Carrouges in the same battle. Le Gris defends de Carrouges’s honor to d’Alençon and says that his friend is brash, but means well. When Le Gris and Margeuritte cross paths, Le Gris falls in love with her and is certain that she feels the same way about him. Her husband is illiterate and old-fashioned compared to him and Le Gris can’t shake the feeling that she would be better off with him. He ventures to her home while he knows that De Courrages is gone and tricks Margeuritte into letting him inside where he professes his love to her. She recoils in disgust and attempts to flee. Le Gris pursues her and has what he deems to be a consensual interaction with her. The truth according to Le Gris goes on with him consulting the clergy for legal advice and d’Alençon saying he will game the system so that Le Gris will go free. However, they are too late as de Carrouges has already petitioned the king for a duel. Not one to back down from a challenge and to brand Margueritte a liar, he accepts.
The story begins the third perspective by calling it the truth according to Marguerite. It stylizes the title card for this chapter by leaving “the truth” on screen after everything else has faded, assuring the audience that the victim’s truth is THE truth. Her story paints de Carrouges out to be less of a gentleman than he considers himself to be. He only challenges Le Gris to a duel to defend his own honor, not hers. In the truth that she tells, Le Gris violently raped her and would not listen to her pleas to stop. When she tells de Carrouges of this, he is quick to anger and instantly accuses her of lying. However, he does soon believe her in his own callous way. He informs her that his plan is to challenge Le Gris to a duel but fails to tell her that if it is he that should perish, she will bare the punishment of his failure. Marguerite only wanted the matter resolved, Le Gris to be punished by the law, and to move on with her life and is angry with de Carrouges acting only to defend his honor and not to honor his wife. The story of The Last Duel ends with de Carrouges defeating Le Gris in combat during the duel, thus declaring Margueritte free from reproach and allows her to return to her life with de Carrouges.
While this is a neat way of telling a story, I don’t think the story itself is written all that well. The dialogue and characters aren’t what I’d expect from a period piece like this, especially not from somebody like Ridley Scott. He’s a director I’ve written about at length in over reviews here on the site, so I don’t need to feel the need to go as in-depth on this review. Suffice to say, Ridley Scott is an amazing director when he’s on the right project. That said, I can’t make up my mind on if this project was the right one for him. There’s nothing overtly wrong with the direction and cinematography of the movie, it’s more like the story was poorly adapted to the screen and the actor’s portrayals of the characters couldn’t make anything work in my opinion. I don’t understand why Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were in this movie. It doesn’t seem like their type of thing. Affleck in particular stuck out like a sore thumb for me. I just can’t get behind him in a movie like this. I don’t mind Jodie Comer and Adam Driver, I think they fit in remarkably well and were the highlight of the movie.
The screenplay is written by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon – who are all accomplished writers and have made some excellent movies on their resumes. The main story is adapted from a book of the same name by Eric Jager. I’ve never heard of this story before and was drawn in by the trailer, but it just didn’t really match my expectations. I’m not sure what I was expecting in terms of writing, but maybe something a little more linear and straightforward, while maintaining the same messaging the final product brought to the table.
The Last Duel is an interesting movie with some clever storytelling mechanics, and while it fails to live up to my expectations for a period piece drama, it is still a good film. Ridley Scott put together a gorgeous and cinematic film with the help of perennial Hollywood A-listers in Damon and Affleck, and some up-and-comers in Comer and Driver. Powerful messaging and storytelling surround this film, making it worth the watch.