The Last Duel is a 2021 epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon, based on the 2004 book The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager. The film is a period drama set in 14th century France.
The premise of The Last Duel is straightforward –
Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), a knight, challenges his friend, squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) to a judicial duel after Jean’s wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer), accuses Jacques of raping her. While there is of course, some development of this basic premise, much of the film’s long run time – two and a half hours (!) – is focused on presenting the events from three perspectives viz. Jean, Jacques and Marguerite, in the vein of Rashomon, the classic film from the legendary Akira Kurosawa.
However, unlike Rashomon, there is not a great difference between the three chapters of different perspectives, certainly not distinctive enough to justify this manner of story-telling. In fact, what actually is the result is that the same events are repeated in roughly the same manner and thus becomes terribly boring. One literally asks – “why are they showing this scene all over again?”
Perhaps that is precisely the reason why The Last Duel failed at the box office. A better approach might have been to stick to one narrative and to keep the film leaner, perhaps even under two hours. But that might make the story a little too straightforward and unworthy of interest – which was probably the concern of director Ridley Scott and thus the need for this elaborate narrative construct.
That all said, everything else about The Last Duel is magnificent. From the performances to the locations to the visceral action sequences, the film is never found wanting and carries the setting perfectly. A pity about the story-telling choices, then. For period drama buffs only.
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