Starring: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer
Director: Ridley Scott
Running Time: 153 mins
The Last Duel is an American film about the differing perspectives on an accusation of rape by the wife of the knight Jean de Carrouges, against his old friend Jacques le Gris, a conflict which leads the two men to fight a duel to the death.
Combining the narrative structure of the Akira Kurosawa’s legendary Rashomon with a timely tale of rape and the impact of believing victims, The Last Duel is an impressively engrossing watch from start to finish, running for over two and a half hours, but feeling nowhere near as hefty as it may at first seem,
While the subject matter isn’t the easiest, The Last Duel is a film that takes place on a grand, cinematic scale. Its drama doesn’t come from graphically and explicitly depicting the crime at the centre of the story, but rather from the tale of a breakdown of a friendship, a marriage and a kingdom – depending on whose story you listen to.
And that’s what I really loved about The Last Duel. Its long 153-minute runtime is broken up expertly into three sections, the same events as retold from the perspective of the three main characters, Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), Jacques le Gris (Adam Driver), and Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer).
With influence taken from the classic Rashomon in its structure, The Last Duel is a very cleverly-written drama that not only uses its three differing perspectives to give a sobering window into how testimonies to a criminal event can vary so much, but also to further its own story as you delve into the mystery of exactly what happened.
Rather than simply repeating the same story three times over, the central focus of the movie gradually evolves as you learn of the different opinions of each character on what happened. At first, it’s a tale of callous criminality, then of jealousy and corruption, and finally – most depressingly of all – the total subjection of women in society to near-object status.
The film’s medieval setting doesn’t remove the story too far from debates that go on to this day, and while women aren’t tried as property in court anymore, the central theme of the impact of what happens when you believe or don’t believe a victim or alleged victim of rape is fully resonant today.
Bolstered by spectacular, dynamic performances from its leading trio, whose characters shift seamlessly as they’re depicted from different perspectives, this is a thoroughly engaging drama that uses its structure to fantastic effect throughout.
Overall, I was very impressed by The Last Duel. A captivating, resonant and timely film, it’s a gripping watch that blends modern themes with a striking medieval setting, strong performances and a brilliantly-plotted narrative structure. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6.