#REVIEW: “THE LAST DUEL”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
The Last Duel is an energized medieval battle and a thought-provoking drama about the true story of Lady Marguerite (Jodie Comer), who was married off to knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon). One day, her husband’s friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), a squire in court, viciously rapes her. When she accuses her attacker, Carrouges brings it to the attention of King Henry VI (Alex Lawther). The King calls for a trial by combat. The duel to the death places the fate of all three in God’s hands.
Screenwriting trio Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener bring this historic, yet timely, story to the screen. They’ve written their Script in three parts, from the perspectives of Carrouges, Le Gris and Lady Marguerite. Importantly, the Filmmakers have stated Lady Marguerite’s perspective as simply, “the truth.” The re-tellings lead to a long runtime, however, they are essential. They show the power and wealth dynamics of the characters and the sexist world the Film explores. A world where women were married for property and then became the property to their husbands.
The screenwriting team show the historic opinions on sexual assault, through a modern lens. We watch as Le Gris hunts and chases a woman in a room filled with others. Once she’s caught they have sex. Although this was ‘normal’ during the period, with our modern view we see it as a sinister act. Driver, no stranger to playing the villain, once again gives a chilling performance.
They further explore the atrocious views on assault through the rape and subsequent events. In Le Gris’ perspective Lady Marguerite says, “No.” When the allegations arise, Le Gris states that women always say no but still want it. This mindset is further confirmed by Le Gris’ friend, who is also the King’s uncle, Pierre (Ben Affleck). Affleck gives one of his most memorable performances in this supporting role. He relishes in Pierre’s lust, power and indifference to those below him.
The Filmmakers further explore the ramifications of the omnipresent male power by depicting a fragile justice system. The rape is thought to be a crime against the husband and not the wife. A battle to the death means if Le Gris wins, Lady Marguerite’s claims will be found false. Not only will Carrouges die, but she will also be burned to death.
Although Comer is surrounded by heavyweights, she’s the one who commands the screen. She encapsulates the kindness, rage, and fear that coarse through Lady Marguerite. In Lady Marguerite‘s telling of the rape, Ridley Scott‘s unflinching direction and Comer‘s heartbreaking plea’s make for a gruelling watch. It’s only the beginning of her career, yet Comer has proven herself as one of the most versatile working actors.
This story takes place against the backdrop of The Hundred Years War, so this dramatic story is laced with epic, bloody battle sequences. Director Scott immediately catapults us into the bloody battles with the opening shot. Each medieval battle is filmed with energetic intensity, some of the most cinematic in recent history. When the last duel arrives, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a tense, violent and vengeful experience with tremendous conflict for all three.
The Last Duel is a visually striking, epic cinematic experience with thought-provoking messages about a male-dominated society. It is exquisitely acted by the entire ensemble and gives Damon a character that shows his range.
20th Century Studios Canada release THE LAST DUEL on October 15, 2021.