The Last Duel

This movie was quickly forgotten and forced out of theaters to make room for the next superhero epic. However, this movie is better than you’ve heard and deserves a look as it becomes available to rent and stream.

The film is an historical drama that tells the story of the last judicial duel fought in France. In the mid 1300’s, two rival soldiers in France come head to head when the wife of one accuses the other of rape. The matter is decided in a trial by combat. The film plays out in three chapters covering each man’s point of view and the woman’s perspective of the crime itself leading up to the duel itself.

The movie opens with Jean De Carrouges, played by Matt Damon, he is a noble warrior who serves his king with distinction and honor. He loves his wife dearly and does everything right. He is maligned by the treacherous Jacques Le Gris and the Count Pierre D’Alencon. He seeks justice and right at all times and with every move.

The next chapter follows Le Gris, played by Adam Driver. He is a womanizer and an opportunist. He is also we’ll educated and is prized for his learned bookkeeping. He is the close friend of Pierre d’Alençon, played by an inexplicably blonde Ben Affleck. He does what he thinks is best at all times and while he wants to help Carrouges, he is more concerned about helping himself. He falls in love with Carrouges’ wife, and while his pursuit of her isn’t entirely reciprocal he believes she wants him too.

The final chapter is from Marguerite de Carrouges’ perspective. She is played by the wonderful Jodie Comer. This is the most interesting section of the movie. Not only because it is lent the most credence of the three, but because it deals with the more nitty gritty details of medieval life. Carrouges tells of battles fought and won. Le Gris tells of political intrigue. But Marguerite tells what life is actually like for a person living at this point in history. It is full of its own dramas and intrigues. These dramas are more interpersonal and compelling that the impersonal battles and court intrigues, also Jodie Comer is brilliant. She is fantastic here.

I have issues with the film. For one thing, each version of events doesn’t differ too dramatically from one another. The events play out pretty similarly for the most part. I wish there was a bigger swing for the fences in terms of perspective shifts here. It’s most disappointing where the central rape is concerned. It plays out pretty much the same way in Le Gris and Marguerite’s versions. After seeing it the first time it was pretty obviously a rape. After seeing it the second time it was just worse. This confused me. If the whole idea is that we’re seeing each person’s perspective, wouldn’t Le Gris’ recollection of the event be different than Marguerite’s? Also if the two accounts were basically the same, why did we have to see it twice? It was awful enough the first time.

That said, if the varying perspective’s gimmick isn’t fully embraced it is still a fascinating story. The way life was lived back in the day is still a riveting subject that I enjoyed watching. It is a worthwhile film even though it is flawed and uneven. The actors are all great although they are curiously haired. Matt Damon sports a gross mullet. Ben Affleck is blond with a goatee. It seems like they had a bet between them to see who could look stupider. This also applies to the helmets they wear during the titular duel. Their helmets leave have their faces exposed. They look stupid. They’re dumb helmets. It’s an inexplicably bad decision that somehow made it into the movie.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. It is a good showcase for the actors and it is a chance to immerse yourself in a different time and place. I loved getting to live in this world for a while. It was a harsh and brutal existence, but it is fascinating to see how people lived.

I think it’s worth checking out as you’re looking for something to watch on these cold winter nights. It was my cup of tea. B

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