What happens when you combine Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and the last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history? You get much more than that, but you get a pretty fine movie. The Last Duel is directed by Ridley Scott and written by Nicole Holofcener, Affleck, and Damon. It stars Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Affleck. This is a film with lots of influence from that famous pairing of friends, but it tells an intriguing story in a way like Rashomon from Kurosawa.

The Last Duel is based on a novel of the same name by Eric Jager. If you’ve gone out and watched trailers for this movie, they show almost every battle scene in the film in those trailers. It’s looking like it might be marketed a little poorly in that way. What you get with The Last Duel is not your traditional medieval epic, it’s a smaller scale film with some big scale scenes. The premise goes like this:

Marguerite de Carrouges (Comer) makes a claim that she’s been raped by her husband’s best friend and squire Jacques Le Gris (Driver). Jean de Carrouges (Damon) challenges him to a trial by combat. Le Gris’s confidant and friend Count Pierre d’Alencon (Damon) gives him every advantage through the process. It’s the last legally sanctioned duel to the death in France’s history.

The film takes on rampant misogyny at the time, but doesn’t go full bore into it. Outside of that, there are some tonally strange scenes that show how life in the 1300s could have been, but they take you a bit out of the narrative. Let’s dive into the specifics.

Jodie Comer Stands Tall Above The Heavyweights In The Cast

Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. Photo credit: Patrick Redmond. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Jodie Comer’s character goes through the most in this story. She’s at the center of the whole narrative. If Marguerite wasn’t a great performance, the movie would absolutely crumble. Standing among great actors like Damon, Affleck, and Driver, Comer not only gives a performance that shows she belongs, she blows the rest of the them out of the water. That’s not to say, they’re bad, they aren’t. The four stars of the film carry the entire thing and are let down by some of the critiques it goes for of the age. Comer pulls the heavy lifting in the most pivotal scenes in the movie, including the trial, and two graphic and disturbing accounts of the rape at the center of the story.

Outside of her, Ben Affleck’s performance as Pierre is enchanting. The way that it shifts from basically old English to a more modern take on vulgar language on a dime is astounding. Pierre is vulgar, pompous, funny, and shows just why the guy got to a position of power; besides being in a famous and powerful family of course. It’s really a showcase of how power and the illusion of wealth made people act back then. He was a leader of the Church and in reality was a scumbag.

Damon And Driver Lead The Film With Different Performances Through The Chapters

Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges and Adam Driver as Jacques LeGris in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. Photo by Patrick Redmond. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Damon is your sort of layman here, with his family name and estate being threatened by his actions. Throughout the three chapters of the film, the audience gets different performances out of him. In his recollection of the events, he’s a hero, he saves lives, and is kind and brave with his wife. However, when the truthful recollections come out, he’s less of a brave man. Going to bat for his wife in combat is less to clear her name and defend her honor, and more to defend his name and honor.

Finally, Adam Driver is just as good in this film. He’s suave, and easy to root for. The filmmakers and screenwriters did a great job of making it seem like he’s really a good guy in the whole situation. Once that changes, he’s marked immediately and the way you felt about the character previously feels gross. It’s a testament to Driver’s skill as an actor that you can feel that many emotions about one character.

Ridley Scott Doesn’t Top Some Of His Best Efforts Here, Especially With The Commentary

Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges and Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges in 20th Century Studios’ THE LAST DUEL. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

This is a movie about misogyny. It’s about how throughout human history, women have been objectified, marginalized, and haven’t had rights that men enjoy. This film goes through all those factors, but doesn’t lean fully into it. Marguerite lived at a time when women were objects, and means to provide heirs. That’s a central plot-line in this film. Marguerite and Jean have trouble providing an heir to the de Carrouges bloodline.

It’s a bit self-indulgent and the tone of the film varies pretty wildly. If you’re telling a story about three accounts of a situation, the stories are going to vary, but the sections featuring Affleck and Driver and debauchery are out of place. They clash with the imagery and historical accounts of the time. It’s also quite a long film clocking in at 2 hours and 33 minutes. That length likely could have been trimmed somewhere, but since it is three stories, you want each to get equal time to breathe.

This isn’t Gladiator, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a more mature and smaller scale story than that classic from Ridley Scott. For fans of his movies, you’ll feel right at home. For people who might be tired of the grandiose scale, historical epics, this might not be for you.

The Last Duel is a film that could have leaned a bit more into its commentary on women throughout history. While it does lean into that territory, it doesn’t quite meet the mark. The four stars of the film carry everything in the film. Their performances , most of all Jodie Comer, are must-see.

The Last Duel releases in theaters on Friday, October 15th, 2021.

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