Throughout his career over 50 years as director, Ridley Scott remains one of the top filmmakers working nowadays from Sci-Fi (“Alien,” “Blade Runner,” even his recent Alien franchises are some of the best) to historical epic (“Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven”) that are regarded as classics and influentials. His latest “The Last Duel,” based on Eric Jager’s non-fiction book of the same name, tells the true story of the last legally duel in 14th century France between two friends-turned-enemies Jean de Carouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques LeGris (Adam Driver), over the rape accusation from Jean’s wife Margueritte (Jodie Comer). It’s a fabulous tale of power, masculinity, betrayal, ego, and ambition, one of Scott’s best works in recent years.
Damon and his buddy Ben Affleck (plays Pierre d’Alençon here) wrote the script together again after their Oscar-winning “Good Will Hunting” with Nicole Holofcensor, whose best known for sharp female center comedies such as “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “Please Give.” The three split the film into three chapters that each is told from different main characters’ perspectives as they recall the same tragic event. This “Rashomon” narrative style let us see these characters’ transformation from different P.O.V. What fascinate the most is to notice several very small details in these different perspectives – how the dialogs are delivered differently, how a kiss is remembered differently, and how shoes are removed differently – all these differences reflect each characters’ state-of-mind and emotions.
These subtle differences just show us how unreliable memories are, how fragile the truth can be, and all lead us to that uncomfortable rape scene, which repeats twice from the perpetrator (regarded as consensual) and victim (horrifying!) side. From here, “The Last Duel” becomes a medieval #MeToo tale as the victim has to endure ridiculously insulting questions in court, and even her female friends don’t believe her. Rape is considered a “violation of man’s property,” and the court claims rape cannot cause pregnancy unless a woman has experienced sexual pleasure. “Killing Eve” breakthrough Jodie Comer is phenomenal here by playing a woman who is trapped by the power of men while begging for justice. She becomes the bridge to link between the past and present females who all suffered from injustices. It’s exciting to see this outstanding actress finally delivers a magnificent performance on the big screen. She’s on the shortlist of this Oscar award season race.
The final part of “The Last Duel” is also where Scott can prove again why he is one of the best in the industry. Like “Gladiator,” the gruesome battle is breathtakingly shot that will definitely put you right in the center of the scene in which you can almost feel the tension under your skin and smell the blood through your nose. Thanks to hours of meticulous building up ahead, it becomes one of the most immersive and chaotic (in a good way) action sequences of the year. However, the film also reminds us at the same time: even the truth is showing directly in front of us, it’s just being ignored intentionally and vanished from history. No matter which man stands at last, women are already lost in the duel.
- Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Production: 20th Century Studios, Pearl Street Films, Scott Free Productions, and TSG Entertainment
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Writer: Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon
- Producer: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, James Flynn, Jennifer Fox, Nicole Holofcener, Ridley Scott, and Kevin J. Walsh
- Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Harriet Walter, Ben Affleck, and Alex Lawther
- “The Last Duel” premiered at Venice Film Festival. Released in theaters Oct. 15, 2021
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