The Last Duel (2021)

The Last Duel (2021)

A very bleak period revenge thriller with undeniable relevancy today

7.9

Movie

United Kingdom, United States of America
English, French, Romanian
Action, Drama, History
2021
RIDLEY SCOTT
Adam Driver, Adam Nagaitis, Alex Lawther
153 min

TLDR

You'll want to smash Adam Driver's face in, which is definitely not the usual response he elicits.

What it's about

The story of one of the last judicial duels in 14th century France, where Norman knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) dueled squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) on the basis of him raping his wife, Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer).

The take

The Last Duel propped high expectations as the Closing Film at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, but its theatrical release later that year proved to be a flop. Ridley Scott blamed it on millennials, but both critics and streaming audiences have been much more favorable than moviegoers. As a film, it's a rather monumental project: quite a dark period piece set in Medieval France, dealing with harsh and offensive themes. Or better said, it deals with ethics and morality through these harsh and offensive themes. There are many ways where this could have gotten wrong—and it's evident from the labels that have been circulating from the very beginning, that Scott has made his "MeToo" movie—but the truth is much more nuanced. From Eric Jager's 2004 book to a script co-written by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and (most importantly) the astute Nicole Holofcener, The Last Duel is really the best of both worlds: action-packed and devoted to the right side of history.

What stands out

Packing in Damon, Affleck, Driver, and Jodie Comer in one two-and-a-half hour film makes for the least humble casting decision, even if it is really just the four of them for the whole runtime. However, we've never seen them in such a constellation before and that's already something to appreciate. A star-studded cast, yes, but it's also one that's made up against types. We've never seen Adam Driver so harsh and ruthless, he channels the terror of gender violence to a blood-curdling degree; Affleck is uncharacteristically sidelining himself, all the while indulging in a sleazy, confident role. But the most exciting performance is of course Jodie Comer's. Not that she needs a breakout role at this point, but the psychological complexity vested in her silence and her accusatory look screams louder than any verbal accusation. Overall, a brilliantly acted film, which makes it all the more scary to see pain so well-performed on screen.

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