Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: King Charles VI declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.
Based on the true story, or at least the truth as was chronicled by such notable medieval historians as Jean Froissart, Jean Juvénal des Ursins, and Jean de Waurin (source Wikipedia), The Last Duel is one of those movies that appeals to a specific audience, and that’s those who enjoy films based in medieval times. The most recent ones that come to mind for me are 2018’s Outlaw King and 2019’s The King. But while The Last Duel (like its predecessors) has a talented cast and a compelling story it misses the most important element needed to make it stand out, and that element is charisma.
But before I get into what Ridley Scott’s latest movie lacks, let’s look at what works. Any time I come across a film that claims to be based on a true story I tend to find myself hitting up Google to see how much “truth” is actually being shown. In the case of The Last Duel the truth of what occurred between the hot-headed and ambitious Sir Jean de Carroughes IV (Matt Damon), the womanising but widely liked Sir Jean de Gris (Adam Driver) and de Carroughes’ wife Marguerite de Thibouville (Jodie Comer) is probably only known by these persons themselves.
Long story short, Marguerite claims that while her husband was away on duties to the king, Jean de Gris forced his way into their home and raped her. Her accusations led to her husband seeking justice in the courts and when this didn’t occur he demanded a trial by duel. The duel and the case itself was one the most famously known and has gone down in history, written and discussed to this day.
Scott smartly shows the events of what may have happened from all three sides and leaves it up to the viewer to decide who is telling the truth, an element that goes a long way in keeping you invested in the outcome of the story. Adam Driver is an actor who has proven time and time again he can slip into any role and make it his own. He and Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, Free Guy) are the two actors who shine the brightest here as their performances are the ones that have the most nuance. Comer’s performance is the most outstanding of them all as the subtle changes she brings to each “version” of the story speaks volumes and adds layers of personality to the role of a woman caught between men whose only true concerns are their own status in this world.
The same can’t be said about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck though and I’m still on the fence as to whether the fault lies with them or the writing. I’m leaning towards the latter though as I feel these two were GRAVELY miscast in their roles. I’m a fan of both actors to varying degrees but at no point during this movie did I not see Jason Bourne and Batman staring back at me. I think if these roles were played by actors who fit them better it might’ve been easier for me to immerse myself in the story but alas, ‘twas not the case (that’s my first and last attempt at Ye Olde English, I promise).
Speaking of which, for a film that’s supposed to be based in France not one person here spoke with a proper French accent! Most didn’t even attempt it, which was probably for the best as that would’ve been hilarious. The cinematography is also terrible; there’s just no other way for me to describe it. I’m used to medieval films having a certain colour palette but for some reason everything here looks washed out and lifeless even in scenes that depict vast green hills and wide shots of the outdoors. Indoors it doesn’t get much better either as most of the scenes have a smoky look to them that I’m guessing was Ridley Scott’s way of trying to make the lighting look natural, but I just found it distracting.
Which brings me back to the biggest issue I had with The Last Duel and that’s the lack of charisma and energy to be found here. On one hand I enjoyed seeing the tale told from all sides (also known as the Rashomon technique), on the other the repetitiveness causes the tone to feel uneven (is this drama, comedy, action?). And what should feel like a big budget epic instead comes across like the first draft of a theatre play, which is a shame because the story itself is intriguing. I for one believe Marguerite was telling the truth, for what woman in that timeline would risk telling an entire country she was raped when she could lose everything in the process, up to and including her very life? There’s also the fact the duel itself is nothing of note and honestly it’s the most forgettable aspect of the entire film.
It’s a shame the dialogue at times felt so wooden and half the actors were miscast because The Last Duel could’ve been something worth revisiting. As it is the only praise I can truly sing to this uneven film is it made me seek out the history behind one of the most intriguing cases to come out of France’s history.
Sommer’s Score: 6 out of 10
So what did you think of The Last Duel? And you can check out more great content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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