Film Review: The Last Duel (2021)

Much more engaging than it ought to be, medieval drama The Last Duel intrigues with its multiple points of view starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer

“There is no right, only the power of men”

Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel copped its fair share of bad headlines when its box office performance severely underwhelmed, so I had fairly limited expectations. But whilst it might not be the most subtle of films, this rape-revenge epic is interestingly conceived as it presents the perspective of its three main protagonists in three distinct chapters.

Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s screenplay is based on Eric Jager’s book The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France. And follows France’s last officially recognised judicial duel between noblemen Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris when the former’s wife Marguerite reports a rape by the latter.

And as we cycle through the same events time and time again, the shifts in viewpoint become incredibly significant. Former battlefield colleagues, Jean and Jacques’ friendship is strained over squabbles over land and inheritance and it is fascinating to see how the perceived slights differ in their respective recollections.

But the real interest comes with the third telling, with Marguerite’s circumspection. If the film perhaps tips its hand a little too much in her direction (there’s no acknowledgement that she too could be gilding the lily in her version of events), there’s still almighty strength in viewing the power dynamics from her side.

Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer all impress, and Affleck has an entertaining if somewhat incongruous recurring role as the men’s bleached blond lord. Accents vary amusingly but quality comes through with the likes of Harriet Walter and Nathaniel Parker in the supporting cast. Better than the label of box-office bomb might suggest.

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