The Last Duel ★★★★
Starring Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck, Marton Csokas, Harriet Walter
You can always trust Ridley Scott to deliver an indulgent epic in whatever he touches, but this time it comes as a shock. The Last Duel successfully manages to juggle contemporary topics and modern film-making in a medieval moment lost in time, without buckling under its own bulge.
Based on the 2004 book of the same name, it tells the story of the historical events leading to a trial by combat between 14th century squire: Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) and Knight: Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) who accuses Le Gris of raping his wife: Marguerite (Jodie Comer).
As if watching the trial itself, the viewer is presented with 3 chapters recounting the individual moments leading to the battle that opens and closes our spectacle, from the perspective of our 3 leads. Although initially the pacing between each moment catches you off guard, eventually you begin to follow and respect the leaps across time as each character would recount them under the pressure of a court.
Each perspective does well to keep the plot in motion and the audience in constant suspense yearning for the truth. It’s fun to see how each character is the hero of their own story when events are retold, making sure repeated moments are never boring. It’s an enormous balancing act that unfolds its' many layers from a very simple beginning to a single battle with the emotional weight of an all out war.
It’s hard to say if I could place any lead’s performance above the other, as Damon, Driver and Comer all slay their historic roles. Damon occasionally shares the screen with his writing partner Ben Affleck, who perhaps delivers the most entertainment from our cast in his portrayal as Count Pierre.
Although the movie makes no mistake in highlighting its character interaction as its focal point, the cinematography and depiction of 14th century France must be commended - Medieval has never looked this good.
The use of an 18 classification is also a benefit to The Last Duel, enshrouding viewers in gore and grim harsh realities of its setting. It makes an effort to show how far as a society we have come to pummel you with the thought of how complex issues against women haven’t come very far at all - a relevant topic of today.
The Last Duel’s only plight is its extensive runtime. Although each chapter keeps each recount fresh and engaging, you do begin to feel like you have lived the three lives of our protagonists and it’s hard to see what could have been left on the cutting room floor. Although it borders on a Once upon a time...in Hollywood level of self-indulgence, it never reaches that mark due to its clear story focus and captivating cast.
Ultimately Ridley Scott’s Pre-Crusader epic delivers present issues in a Tarantino-esque format to a tale many would never have known existed, though it’s enormous size may repel the average movie-goer.
The Last Duel available in select cinemas now