The Last Duel Movie Review & Summary: A Historic Tale of Men for the Modern-Day

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Video Source – 20th Century Studios (20th Century Studios YouTube Channel)

The Last Duel is a 2021 epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer.

The Last Duel Movie Cast

  • Matt Damon as Sir Jean de Carrouges
  • Adam Driver as Jacques Le Gris
  • Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges
  • Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d’Alençon

The Last Duel Movie Plot

Set in 14th century France, ‘The Last Duel’ follows the story of a knight, Jean de Carrouges(Matt Damon), who challenges his estranged friend squire Jacques Le Gris(Adam Driver) to a judicial duel after his wife, Marguerite(Jodie Comer), accuses Jacques of raping her.

The Last Duel Movie Review

The Last Duel Movie Review

Ridley Scott returning to epic historical dramas must sound like good news for people who remember Maximus avenging his family’s murder in sheer style and machismo. Seems Maximus was on point when he said, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity”. It’s fair to doubt his ability to replicate the success of a Best Picture Academy Award winner, but anything half as good as the 2000 epic drama film must be worthy enough to pass the litmus test. If one was to point out the similarities between ‘Gladiator (2000)’ and ‘The Last Duel (2021)’, at the outset, both are movies that portray men fighting for strength and honour.

Though, the kind of strength and honour one would witness in ‘The Last Duel’ could prove to be the differential. The film’s run-time is divided into three chapters, each portraying the three different versions from the perspective of the three main characters. The wronged woman’s version coming in the last is not merely a creative choice or a coincidence. The chronology perfectly reflects the importance the character gets. For instance, Jean is not a brave husband who dares to risk his life to avenge the wrong done towards his wife. Instead, he is a man who is ready to risk it all because his pride has been violated as another man has dared to touch what belongs to him alone- his property, his wife. 

Jean de Carrouges is a brave knight who’s always ready to fight for his king to protect his family’s name in which he takes immense pride. Although, this bravery falls short in impressing Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck) who finds his confidant in Jean’s friend, squire Jacques Le Gris. Finding himself out of favour from the count, soon a tussle of ego and insecurity ensues between the two friends. Meanwhile, Jean marries Marguerite, the daughter of a former betrayer of the King. As Jacques earns more power and wealth by virtue of his proximity with the count, Jean becomes increasingly frustrated by the treatment he receives.

Things come to the breaking point when after returning from a long journey, Jean finds his wife accusing Jacques of violating her without her consent. He manages to arrange a hearing in front of the King, during which he demands a duel with the man who wronged him and his wife. The law suggests the duel’s victor, by the grace of God, will be the one who is just and right. The movie opens up with the two competitors preparing for the duel and then we see the said events taking place from the perspective of the three parties. Each version differs in the way it places the “truth” in front of the audience. Yes, it’s Rashomon all over again, but this time in the land of soufflé. 

The Last Duel's Portrayal of Sexual Violation and the Meaning of Consent

The truth, although ambiguous to the characters in the movie until the very end, reveals itself very clearly pretty early in the movie. Amidst the varied repetitions of the same story, what is put forth in ‘The Last Duel’ is a gripping portrayal of the subjugation of women and the treatments victims of sexual violation receive when voicing their truth, often at the risk of putting their own character at one end of scrutiny. In its most honest moments, the movie does not hesitate in pointing out that the definition of a woman’s consent is often set in context with the play of power, beliefs and ego of men who set the rules of the world. Pride, ego and beliefs of the people around, all supersede the victim’s plight. In a world that has witnessed the #MeToo movement, Marguerite’s voice might definitely resonate more than it did in 14th century France. 

The movie successfully drives across the point it tries to make. However, the impact is dampened by the absurdness that comes into play. On most occasions, it becomes rather easy to contextualize the situation in a modern-day setting. But at the same time, it’s the medieval indifference, brutality and callousness which alienates the portrayal into something probable back then, given the tide and time. At the risk of almost wandering into irrelevance, the movie manages to tread a fine line to stay relevant to the 21st century. The support is provided by the performances of the cast in not making it look like a merely isolated event in distant history. The attention to detail given to the three different variations of the same event is impressive and it comes out noticeably, thanks to the performance of the cast. 

The film is not wired with unexpected plot twists and where the film is heading is clear from the get-go. The film is not confused with what it wants to achieve; in the end, it leaves the viewer with answers to most questions that may arise during its course. It’s indeed possible one may feel the way the women in the film feel at moments and be left wondering. The movie loses its purpose where it becomes reasonable for the viewer to fit the injustice being meted out as a result of the historical juncture in which the events are taking place, instead of the social conditions that have prevailed ever since. It’s this waywardness in the screenplay which diminishes some of the intensity. Even then, the movie never feels apologetic about what it’s trying to prove. However, the makers should be apologetic about not giving Jodie Comer a meatier role. Marguerite, as a character, remained less of an interesting one to watch as compared to the primary male characters. 

The Movie Culture Synopsis

Ridley Scott’s ‘The Last Duel’ is more than just an epic historical drama film based on another book that covers yet another event from the long-drawn manuscript of history. It has the tropes of bloody violence, war and the usual paranoia that haunt men in historical dramas, along with the massive scale (Come on, it’s a Ridley Scott film!).

Ego, power and certain historical madness make it to the screen. But importantly, it’s the relevant critique the film provides. The film is not flawless, but it has its appeal and a cast one could bet their money on any day.