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02 November 2021 Posted by 

THE LAST DUEL - 4 STARS

Surprisingly nuanced take on rape culture, told with suitable bravado and violence for a medieval epic. 
JACOB RICHARDSON
SIR Jean De Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) are thick as thieves; buddies fighting their way through medieval France as a pair of squires.
But their simmering tensions boil into something more sinister, as Le Gris curries favour with Count Pierre d’Alencon (Ben Affleck). With dwindling finances, Sir Jean seems to strike a little luck himself - falling for the beautiful Marguerite (Jodie Comer) and marrying her. But the land promised as part of her dowry is given by Pierre to his buddy Le Gris, as is the captaincy due Sir Jean. 
 
When Le Gris sneaks into Sir Jean’s castle and has his way with Marguerite, it’s the last straw. Marguerite tells Sir Jean of the rape, and King Charles VI (Alex Lawther) declares that the two settle their dispute with a duel - a practice that hasn’t been performed in many years. 
 
If Sir Jean succeeds, his enemy will be declared a rapist posthumously; if Le Gris wins, his assertions that it was consensual will hold, and not only will Sir Jean have died, but Marguerite will burn alive. 
 
Directed by Ridley Scott, The Last Duel is intriguing for the fact that it is the first screenplay by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck together since their Oscar winning debut, Good Will Hunting. 
 
They’re joined in screenplay duties by Nicole Holofcener, and that’s primarily due to the structure of this piece; told in three chapters, from three different viewpoints. The first is Damons’ Sir Jean, who gets the most screentime by far. 
 
His story does the bulk of the heavy lifting, but portrays Sir Jean as a too-trusting, but ultimately kind and good hearted man who is beloved by his wife.
 
Then comes Le Gris’ story; where he is the good guy, constantly defending his foolhardy friend, and falling in love with his friends’ wife. He believes that while Marguerite protested, she was just being a lady and truly wanted to be with him. 
 
 
Finally, we here Marguerites’ story (the story Scott not-so-subtly labels as ‘the truth’). For Marguerite, her husband is cold and occasionally vicious, and barely believes her; fighting for his honour rather than hers in this duel. For her, Le Gris’ assault is a horrid, painful, terrifying experience.
 
The film contains all the brutal medieval action one would expect, with tremendous sets and costuming resplendent throughout. 
 
The performances are also incredible. Damon and Driver have fun playing with the multiple takes on the same scene, while also bringing a certain brutality to their roles. Affleck stands out in a role that gives him a tonne of comedic license, and he frequently cracks the cinema up. 
 
His role in particular is still a relevant commentary on how sexual assault is seen today; with men being protected by the powerful people around them, while women are shamed and forced to prove their innocence. 
 
But the standout is Comer, who brings a stark fierceness to her character's own story that breathes life into a role that, in the first two chapters of the piece, feels pale and hollow. 
 
Her musings on the importance of truth, coupled with her realisation regarding it’s relative importance, gives her performance a really introspective and engaging tone, and her reactions during and subsequent to the duel are impossible to look away from. 
 
That being said, the film is overly long, and the first chapter drags right up until we begin to understand the triple perspective conceit. There are also a number of questionable wigs, and a wide array of accents for medieval France. 
 
Nevertheless, The Last Duel is entertaining first and foremost, compelling secondly, and ultimately a well written and performed allegory for modern rape culture. 
 
Strap yourselves in for a long, but rewarding, medieval tale from Ridley Scott.  
 
Jacob Richardson is Creative Director at Film Focus. www.filmfocusau.com 


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Michael Walls
michael@accessnews.com.au
0407 783 413

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