The Last Duel

The Last Duel

In Theatres: 
Oct 15, 2021
Running Time: 
153 minutes

Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel invokes Akira Kurosawa’s iconic Rashomon to tell a single story through various perspectives as the historical drama shapes and reshapes audiences views on its characters and truth. It’s a fascinating character study driven by phenomenal performances across the board. Ridley Scott has struggled over the last decade, but The Last Duel is a return to form for the director and is an absolute must-see.


Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is a knight serving under France’s King Charles VI (Alex Lawther) when his wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer) accuses his former friend and squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of raping her. Le Gris is favored by Count Pierre d'Alençon (Ben Affleck) more so than de Carrouges so the accusation is buried so Jean takes his case directly to the king and asks for a trial by combat. With a duel set between Jean and Jacques, the fate of Marguerite and whether she is a liar or not is left up to God’s will and shall be determined by whomever ends up victorious on the battlefield.


The Last Duel is told in three parts, each telling the story from the perspective of its characters; Jean de Carrouges, Jacques Le Gris, and Marguerite de Carrouges. We are all the heroes of our own stories, and The Last Duel is no exception. Jean de Carrouges is the first perspective to be heard, and almost immediately he is seen as the hero who never gets what he is fairly owed. He has dedicated his life to serving the King and yet because Count Pierre does not like him he is removed from his family command and has land that was promised to him given away, with Jacques Le Gris as the recipient of both due to his close nature with Count Pierre. In Jean’s eyes, Jacques is seen as a friend who just has some good will thrust upon him. Jean sees that Jacques is just doing his best to help his friend out. It’s Count Pierre who is the real bad guy. But then when the story switches to Jacques perspective we see that he is just as slimy and manipulative as the Count. From the outside he looks suave and debonair but behind closed doors he can’t hold back to his naturalistic urges.


That brings us to the core moment of the film where Marguerite claims that Jacques raped her. There is some ambiguity when we first hear Jean’s story since he was not present, but when we get to Jacques’ perspective the truth is abundantly clear. His version is slightly different from Marguerite’s but there’s no denying what happened. There’s no ambiguity or open ended debate here, and the film is stronger because of it. The Last Duel is a medieval Me Too movement that is driven by a phenomenal performance by Jodie Comer.


There was practically no such thing as women’s rights back in the 1300’s. Women were viewed as property, first and foremost and the film makes that abundantly clear. The marriage between Jean and Marguerite is more like a business transaction than actual love, and while Jean is fighting in her name, he’s only doing so to defend his own honor. Time and time again it’s shown that the men in this world do not care about women personally but only how their actions reflect on them. Jean defends Marguerite not because she was raped or for her own well-being, but because it looks insulting on him. He has no concern for how she feels. Jodie Comer’s performance is stunning and triumphant as the only person to remain competent throughout each of the perspectives. She, in fact, grows more complex and more defiant as the film goes on, whereas most of the men have the illusions of their personas shattered by others. Despite the duel to the death between Jean and Jacques, it’s Marguerite who has the most on the line. The fear and pain that Comer conveys knowing that her life has always been in the hands of men, even at the very end, will pierce you to your core. And yet despite all the daunting obstacles in her way, she still stands tall and makes sure her truth is heard.


After a handful of disappointing features from Ridley Scott, it’s wonderful to see him return as strong as ever with The Last Duel. Everything, from the script to the cinematography to the performances, comes together like clockwork to deliver a thrilling and engaging story that feels all too necessary in its tale.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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