The Last Duel is surprisingly powerful.
THE LAST DUEL (2021) | VENICE FILM FESTIVAL
The Last Duel is the latest film from Ridley Scott and sees Ben Affleck and Matt Damon re-teaming as screenwriters for the first time since Good Will Hunting, alongside co-writer Nicole Holofcener. Surprisingly complex, the film offers the audience much to confront.
Powerful direction from Ridley Scott throughout, the reframing of multiple scenes depending on whose chapter we are in is excellent and showcases the powerful acting of his cast and his artful direction.
He makes solid use of his runtime and whilst we hear the same story 3 times, his clever shot choices mean each time the story stays fresh to us, with key subtle differences keeping audiences alert.
A tale told from 3 different angles, Marguerite de Thibouville claims she was raped by squire Jacques Le Gris. To defend his and his wife’s honour, her husband knight Jean de Carrouges challenges him to trial be combat.
Coming in at a staggering 152 minutes, the runtime flies by due to the clever narrative structure. Split in to three distinct chapters we see Jean’s truth, Jacques’ truth and finally Marguerite’s truth.
The film leans in to the unreliable narrator trope and highlights just how differently two people can view the same world and experience. Written by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener, they make subtle changes to lines within the three different perspectives and create believable characters whose choice of words speaks volumes.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
As expected, Adam Driver steals the show with a powerful and charismatic performance as Jacques Le Gris. Eating up every ounce of dialogue and delighting in every opportunity to spout Latin, his Le Gris is charming and enraging. Playing him against Damon’s hateful Carrouges makes for a complex watch. Though one had been wronged, it’s hard to argue that either could be a hero in this tale.
Jodie Comer is at the center of the film as accuser Marguerite. She seems to struggle at first in chapter one, however as we arrive to chapter three, her version of the truth, she gives a powerful and compelling performance that highlights her strength as an actress. Her chemistry with Driver is intense and watching the pair exchange lines of Latin is a delightful scene.
A great cameo from Alex Lawther (The End of the Fucking World) as King Charles VI, though Serena Kennedy should be acknowledged for her role of Queen Isabeau. Despite having no lines and maybe less than 3 minutes of screen time, clear cutaways to her reactions and demeanour speak volumes louder than others in a male dominated world.
Despite some odd accent choices (the film is set in France yet we get our normal Hollywood choice that some speak with English accents, some American and some French) and a slightly offbeat performance from Ben Affleck, you shouldnt be surprised to see the cast, especially Driver in future awards conversations.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Beautiful set design and costuming again Solidify the world we are in. Great use or lighting and colour help to reframe the scenes from each of our characters viewpoint as well as add to the dreary and oppressive feel of the film and environment.
The titular duel within the film is unbearably watchable with excellent choreography. Horse fans may not care too much for these scenes, though I hope appropriate use of technology was used to ensure no real harm.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
A beautiful score mixed with religious sounds and music solidify the time period as well as the patriarchal structure we find ourselves in for the film.
The Last Duel is surprisingly powerful. It’s complex subject matter will ensure it is long discussed and analysed upon its general release. There is much more to say on the film, however it is best to save this for after watching.