"The Last Duel" is a co-production between the United Kingdom and United States from 2021, so still a very recent movie and also a very long movie as you can see from the title of my review. This one makes it past the 2.5-hour mark, even if just barely. The language spoken here from beginning to end despite all the French names of the protagonists is English, certainly because of the actors' background. There is one very brief occasion in which we have Adam Driver use the German language, which was especially interesting for me as a German native. So there I mentioned one of the actors already, but I will first of all stay with the people who made this movie and are not seen on the screen. The director is Ridley Scott, way into his 80s now, but more prolific than ever. I saw they even announced plans of him directing a Gladiator sequel? Anyway, Scott has never been a prolific writer, so they got a trio of very interesting other writers instead. The first would be Nicole Holofcener, an experienced director herself, and she collaborated with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, which is especially interesting because of the characters they play in this film, but also because of their shared past. It all started for them when they wrote Good Will Hunting and won an Oscar for it when they were still really young. They did some writing in the almost 25 years since then too, but not super often. For Damon, this film here was the first writing credit since 2012 and Affleck has also worked on one screenplay only in the last ten years. As for their characters, they are antagonists here, which is also interesting because of how these two are really close friends in real life and have been for a long time. Remember Ricky Gervais announcing Damon as an awards presenter and what he said about Affleck? I think it was at the Golden Globes. Anyway, let's stay with this film now. Of course, I must mention Adam Driver too. His career is really going strong with Star Wars, this film, the upcoming Gucci movie (again by Scott) and another film where he is the lead next to Marion Cotillard. Life's good for him. The female lead here is Jodie Comer, an Emmy winner from Killing Eve. She seems supporting for the first 90 minutes, but that changes quickly afterwards. Those are the big names, plus Harriet Walter maybe.
So this film takes place several centuries in the past, which should be obvious from the poster here on imdb already. Pretty impressive cast for that I would say, especially with the three big names. These do not too often get Hollywood powerhorses in films like this, but Scott directing surely helped the matter, especially because he had already worked with Damon on the really successful The Martian a few years ago. Now, let's focus on this one here and the story here is much more Earth-bound. You can divide this film into four parts basically. Three of them are the key story being told from the perspective of one central character (Damon, Driver and Comer each in this order) and number four is basically the prologue that already takes place after these three segments in terms of chronology and the actual duel in the end and the prologue is basically an appetizer for this duel. However, let's focus on these three long middle segments for now. There are scenes in those that are shown twice, which is one reason why the film is this long. This refers most of all to the tragic rape scene that is basically the center of the plot, also with the film's title, so it makes sense they put it in twice. I still think it maybe could have been a better film if it had been 20 minutes or so shorter, but I must admit that I do not really know what to cut either, so let's just keep it all this way. Besides, it was safe from beginning to end for me that this film would get a positive recommendation and there was no doubt there. Unfortunately, I would also only call it a good film and not a "great" film because the truly memorable segments were not frequent enough for such overwhelming appreciation. Technically, it is almost a flawless film in terms of everything that falls into this category. Doesn't matter if we are talking costumes, visual effects, sound, art direction and cinematography too. Probably others. I do believe this will score Oscar nominations in some of these fields.
For the acting probably not, even if it don't think it would be totally undeserving. I mean Comer brought one of the strongest film females of the year to the screen here. Damon (with a big scar in his face) and Driver had quite a few moments in which they really shone and Ben Affleck, with unusually blond hair, also made an impact, even if his character is maybe not significant enough for massive awards attention. But he took a risk here, played something different than he usually does and did a good job with it. I must even admit it took me quite some time to realize it was him, which definitely had to do with the looks, but also with how he truly disappeared in character here. Good for him! With the #metoo debate still going on in 2021, it is no surprise that the film still made some powerful statements when it comes to the ways how women lived centuries ago and what rights they had. Namely, almost none. After the rape, Comer's character talks to her husband and tells him that she can only go through with it if he supports her. It's true. She could not have done anything on her own and Driver's character's words that maybe her husband could even kill her did not feel impossible either. She is basically her husband's property and her father's military history is not helping with her standing either. But it seems Damon's character really loves her because he marries her despite her father, despite getting less than he was promised and stays with her despite what happened to her when everybody was out. There's more "scientific" talk there. A woman cannot get pregnant from rape. A woman cannot get pregnant if she does not have an orgasm. Or little death as they say. Oh what were times like back then. Maybe people who complain about lack of gender-adequate language should think about that instead of literally seeking stuff to mistake for discrimination. Or take the comment about how she considers Driver's character attractive. That's a completely different subject though, not entirely uncommon in 2021.
As for the actual duel, it was okay I guess, but still not overwhelming. They sure tried all they could with the two fighting up on horseback first, then the horses are killed and they just fight like foot soldiers. I did not like too much that they really made it look all the time as if Driver's character was in charge and ahead only to turn things eventually into a happy ending with Damon's character prevailing. Maybe you remember the quote from Driver's character about how he would never bet against Damon's character in battle and this surely was a bit of foreshadowing. Also the idea of God's will (no matter if you believe in God or not) could not have been any more absurd, in the sense of him deciding if the rape actually took place by choosing a winner. I must say I would have thought the duel to be more one-sided with Damon's strength in battle and well Driver's character having fought in battle too, but he was more of a leech. Still somewhat equal. In the end, all his dignity and reputation are gone because his death branded him as an actual rapist and there he hangs like a dead animal. His attitude towards Damon's character must still be discussed: The two once were really close friends and he keeps defending Damon's character when he talks to Affleck's for example. Or also how he says on one occasion that nobody ever said a bad word about Damon's character's father. He respects the man for sure. However, at the same time he is quite a brute as we see on another occasion and how he deals with women there. Still he is smart, good with languages for example. But he also possesses a massive ego. Take a look at what happens right before Damon's character heads to Paris. How the latter shows up there and complains to Driver's character that he does not call him a sir or sire. One of the two. He really exposed him there in front of everybody, despite Driver's character trying to make peace and saying it was not Damon's character's fault that the mission in Scotland was a failure and that he still deserves his money. However, after this talk he received it seems as if he knew exactly what he was about to do when he wishes Damon's character a lot of fun in Paris. Then the tragedy happens.
Admittedly, Driver's character probably also would not have expected this duel to happen because on one occasion we find out that life-or-death duels were not really a thing back then anymore, but the very young king with his appetite for sensation agrees to Damon's character's proposal and so be it. Right before the duel, we also find out a bit more about the female component of it all, about how Damon's character's mother had her own dark past and how living to bring up a child may be more important than seeking justice. This conflict is also in Comer's character's head near the end, but nobody gives in. Comer's character as well as Driver's until the very end stay with their versions of the story, which also shows us that Driver's character is not scared of God and keeps lying despite asking for forgiveness from the Lord earlier. You could say that Comer's character in the end is maybe the only good character here. Damon's is also not evil, but there are acts from him that seem vile, but fit in with times back then. Just take a look at how he forces his wife so briefly after the assult to have sex with him so that Driver's character is not the last man to have had her. There is a lot more to elaborate from this film because of really good attention to detail, such as the stallion/mare scene (also the colors), but I shall leave it at that. Good film. Watch it. (tt4244994)
The Last Duel
Action / Drama / History
The Last Duel
Action / Drama / History
Told in three viewpoints: husband's, rapist, wife's is very informing. Lots of medieval fighting and court machinations. Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, and Adam Driver are well-cast as three leads. Over two hours long but won't feel it. Stay for update at end.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
November 29, 2021 at 03:21 AM