The Last Duel Movie Review

“The Last Duel” is an epic-sized historical drama full of swords and shields and mud and blood. It tells of a true tale from the 14th century in Medieval France based on power, pride, purity and lust. The style is focused some particular events and retold multiple times from the eyes of the three main characters. This never comes off a gimmick, but instead opens up a new layer of discovery after each tale is told once more. In the end, it shows how some behaviors have changed little over these hundreds of years.

 

 

Jean de Carrouges (played by Matt Damon) is a son of a noble man, with an important name and claim to future land and wealth. He is a prideful person and righteous in his beliefs. He will fight for God and his King, and he does so with some regularity. His zeal in battle gives him a reputation of being hot-headed and sometimes reckless. The scars on his face show his past battles have left a mark. He wants to marry a virtuous woman of good breeding, and hopes to get a decent dowry in the process. The bride’s father must give Jean a pretty big total of wealth and land to get that daughter married into a good family.

 

 

Jean finds that a French nobleman, who once picked the wrong side in a recent war, has a beautiful and chaste daughter. This nobleman has been shunned by many, due to his bad choice in allies in the war. But he has plenty of land and he wants to marry his daughter into a family of good standing. Marguerite de Carrouges (played by Jodie Comer) is the new bride of Jean. But there is one piece of property that Jean wanted to get as dowry. The father cannot give it to him, because it was given up for taxes to the King. However, that land was taken by a local Royal Court member named Count Pierre d’Alençon (played by Ben Affleck).

 

 

Count Pierre had taken that piece of land and then gave the title to his trusted squire named Jacques Le Gris (played by Adam Driver). Jacques was also a friend to Jean de Carrouges. They had fought many battles and Jean had once saved the life of Jacques. But now Jean finds out more about how Count Pierre has favored Jacques in everything. Jean has lost most of his land, due to the heavy tax burden from the King. Of course, not all property and wealth gets as far as Paris. Count Pierre takes a substantial cut for himself, and pays off his buddies — like Jacques Le Gris. He even gives Jacques the title that was going to go to Jean.

 

 

Jacques Le Gris knows all about Jean de Carrouges, including his pure and chaste wife Marguerite. He has an infatuation with her, even when Count Pierre has a castle full of loose women and harlots. Jacques pays an unwanted visit to see Marguerite. His visit builds up to a physical assault against Marguerite. It is a rape against the woman that he claims to love, and has no use for her protesting. Jean finds out and feels he must protect the dignity and honor of his family name. At first he sues Jacques, but the local court is run by Count Pierre. So there is no way justice can be served. Jean is offered to try the case by the Church in Paris. Jean does not like this idea. He knows there is one other option, an option that has not been used for many years.

 

 

Jean de Carrouges takes the rape case of Marguerite to the Royal Court in front of King Charles VI (played by Alex Lawther). The young king is not well-equipped to handle a case like this. There has not been a Duel to the Death for many years. The case is brought before the Court, and the sordid details are brought before the Royalty, and the public. Jacques Le Gris is confident that his actions were guided by his ‘love’ for Marguerite. She is now pregnant, and she is adamant that Jacques is nothing more than a rapist.

 

 

Jean de Carrouges was not there that day, and does not know any of the details. But he defends his pregnant wife from the accusations that she ‘enjoyed’ her experience with Jacques. After all, it is common knowledge that if a woman does not enjoy the sexual act – she cannot get pregnant, Hmmm – It’s a good thing our views have changed since then, right?

 

The duel of combat to the death is approved by the King. The two men will meet in combat, first with a joust and then with hand-to-hand fighting. It will only end when one man is dead. If Jean de Carrouges wins the contest, he will be free to live and be with his wife (and the new baby). Jacques Le Gris will be proven guilty by God, if Jean wins the contest.

 

But if Jean loses, and Jacques Le Gris becomes the victor — Jean will be dead. Oh, by the way — his wife Marguerite will also be burned to death immediately. After all, she would be the one who had made a false claim of rape against the person who was proven by God to be in the right. What? We did not mention that before? Oh, my bad…

 

 

“The Last Duel” is told in the manner of the old Japanese movie “Rashomon”. The main plot points of the story are told firstly from the viewpoint of Jean de Carrouges. Then the same events are recounted by Jacques Le Gris, and then finally from the vantage point of Marguerite. The effect is that subtle differences are found in the repeated story. Some items are emphasized, while others do not show up at all. It does not make the movie more confusing, but it does rehash many things (sometimes up to three times).

 

 

Director Ridley Scott is more than up to task to turn it into a clear story arc. He shows how the general view of women in that era is that they have no voice and no agency. It is mostly due to the prideful view of Jean de Carrouges in wanting to clear his family name that he brings the case before the Royal Court. Marguerite had no say in the final decision, but she had quite a lot to lose. All of these story lines, and emotions, are clearly expressed by all the actors.

 

 

The acting is really good by all of the main people (Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Ben Affleck). Damon plays a dour and bull-headed knight (Jean de Carrouges) with a self-righteous anger and sense of entitlement. Driver plays the bright and provocative squire (Jacques Le Gris) with an air of superiority and supreme drive. Comer does a wonderful job as the wife (Marguerite) who has been betrayed and wants to get revenge. Affleck clowns it up playing the Count Pierre as a womanizing, lecherous creepy Royal.

 

“The Last Duel” tells a true tale of a 14th century betrayal and rape, and how the woman would not let the culprit get away with it. She tells her story and wants to start a ‘Medieval Me Too-eth Movement’.

 

The Last Duel

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Screenplay by: Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon
Based on novel: “The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France” (by Eric Jager)
Starring: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck
Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Distributed by: 20th Century Studios
Release date: October 15, 2021
Length: 152 minutes
MPAA rating: R for strong violence including sexual assault, sexual content, some graphic nudity, and language
Genre: Historical Drama

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Rating

tmc.io contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

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