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With The last duel, Ridley Scott is going medieval with the modern feminist movement – because, you know, it’s literally set in the 14th century. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are reuniting as co-stars and co-writers, with screenwriter Nicole Holofcener, for something not even like Goodwill hunting. It’s hard to take Affleck and Damon seriously in this movie, in part because their hairdressers seem to be playing jokes on them – don’t call him Mullet Damon, please – but this fictional tale of an actual event ends. by tacking into heavy territory. So yeah, how about that, it’s a BOATS (Based On A True Story) movie that’s pretty far removed from modern times – it’s like that in combat trial movies – but still manages to incorporate anachronistic language, stopping just short of hashtags. So is it too #MeToo to be credible? Let’s find out.
The essential: PARIS, 1386. Two absolutely very virile men, Sir Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), put on armor and ride their horses. They’ll start with a joust, then maybe move on to swords or battle axes, and from there let’s let the day take them wherever it pleases. Now, 1370: The Truth About Sir John Will Follow, explains a title card. It’s a simpler time, when Jean and Jacques were friends, saving their lives in a big bloody confrontation that they and their French comrades end up losing, oops. And yet, Jean and Jacques return as MEN in the Parisian suburbs where they own land and bow to a pompous surfer-blonde known by the name of Count Pierre d’AlenÃ§on (Affleck). Go to 1377, and Jacques works as a debt collector for Pierre, shaking Jean for the dough he owes. The plague has ravaged the country and left Jean a widower, and also in a difficult financial situation, but he is a sincere man, straight as an arrow because the day is gray in the seedy semi-rural medieval France, and it will do to through.
Then, NORMANDY, 1380, where there is another violent battle in which Jean fights and blood flows. He gets paid to do that, you see. He returns and makes a trade deal with the disgraced local lord Sir Robert de Thibouville (Nathaniel Parker): Jean will marry Robert’s daughter, Marguerite (Jodie Comer). She is hot and blonde, but Count Pierre’s hair is ultimately more blonde. She and John get married and go to bed to make him an heir. A little later there is a scene where real beefy men like John are climbing a path and a woman chases geese out of their path. DON’T GET PIECED, YE GEESE. There is a property conflict between Jean and Count Pierre and his lackey Jacques, poisoning the friendship. A YEAR LATER a sez subtitle, and I’ve completely lost track of when it’s as we watch it happen. Is it important? Is it still PARIS, 1386? Not enough. Jean makes peace with Jacques, sealed by a kiss from Marguerite, and the contact of their lips can be a moment, if the pause in the narrative push is any indication. Soon, Jean returns to battle and is officially knighted. SCOTLAND, 1385 tells us the film, and behold, do we feel oriented in a time and place, although it is not that different from NORMANDY, 1380 or O QU’ILS ÃTAIT, 1377.
Jean returns from having his ass kicked in SCOTLAND, 1385, where a man received a flaming arrow in the face, and soon after it is finally PARIS, 1386, but not yet the exciting part of the PARIS duel, 1386. Our protagonist returns home to find Marguerite distraught. Jacques broke into the house and imposed himself on her, she said. Jean is calm but angry, and pushes the accusation in court. This is the era of feudalism, Count Pierre is the judge, but Jean knew that the inevitable acquittal of Jacques was coming, and had a plan. Without witnesses to the crime, this is simply a He Said, She Said situation, meaning that Jean can challenge Jacques to a duel to the death. “God will spare those who speak the truth,” insists John, literally throwing his glove in front of the king.
Then comes Part Two, Part Three, and thank goodness we have spared us from telling the truth that we are tired of putting floating signs at the bottom of the screen because there won’t be any more. They are not necessary, because the preceding events will be revisited respectively from the point of view of Jacques and Marguerite. In the Jacques chapter, we learn that he is very literate, and also of the vigorous type, leaving for many orgies with Count Pierre. And it’s here that Jean’s face becomes more belligerent, prudish and square, the battle scar on his cheek suddenly on the wrong side of the handsome / ugly parting. This time, we bear witness to the forbidden meeting between Jacques and Marguerite, which he insists on the fact that it was essentially only brutal sexual relations preceded by his “customary protest”. The church is on her side, of course. And shortly after, with a grandiose flourish of his cape, he picks up Jean’s glove.
What movies will this remind you of? : (Takes the most arrogant and condescending tone possible) It’s time to go watch Rashomon, children.
Performances to watch: Comer’s spirited and nuanced performance should not be overlooked, which gives the film its vital emotional hook. But Affleck is the real stage thief, an ironic and sarcastic presence who livens up the debates with ridiculous line readings and a fun, exaggerated personification of a most toxic form of masculinity. It seems like a small miracle that these two performances exist in the same movie, and that they also remain viewable.
Memorable dialogue: Nicole nails the theme: âThere is no ‘right’. There is only the power of men.
Gender and skin: Potentially upsetting scenes of sexual assault; male and female nudity.
Our opinion : I know – we haven’t covered Marguerite’s version of the truth yet, which is when The last duel really finds its dramatic place, deep within its 150 minute run time. It goes from Jean’s bland and blunt tale to Jacques’ flippant and arrogant POV, to Marguerite’s disturbing and horrific trauma. His point of view is free from the boring drudgery of men and their business, their bickering over plots of grass, in court or in war. It’s a kind and generous heart that efficiently runs the stables in Jean’s absence, collides with Nicole (mothers-in-law, I tell you!) And bravely squirms under Jean’s growling missionary directives. She is ambitious and patient, strong and vulnerable, and is ultimately horrified to learn that if Jean loses the duel, she will be executed as punishment for false accusations. It would appear that her choices in this situation range from ugly to fucking, and culturally backward as it could be that her husband’s prowess with sword and shield determines his fate, it would certainly help if Jean didn’t lose, and so of course we support him, because a scene in which dear Marguerite is burned at the stake is a scene we would really prefer not to see.
This is truly a Ridley Scott film – expensive, visually immersive, captivating and well paced, with intense and tense action sequences, enough for the finale, the duel finally done, to make you mumble, “That was enough. barbaric, even for 1386. It’s embarrassing, and thematically counterintuitive, that violence is more believable than the thoughtless way the film deals with the discussion of sexual assault; fortunately the two are equal in their lack of subtlety. And yet Scott never quite even levels the tone, switching from clownish male looks – scenes that seem to do little more than set up a big showdown between The Mullet and, well, Adam Driver’s Locks – to the Marguerite’s sober and heartbreaking drama chronology of events.
If you are an apologist, you might argue that such disparity is precisely the problem. Perhaps it would be easier to accept such an argument if Jacques’ chapter were not so closely related to satire, and that of Marguerite to melodrama. I’m not sure I’m buying the catch-up to 21st century themes in medieval times, especially in the filthy dialogue exchanges; the film treads heavily on the territory of tell-me-don’t-know-already when it asserts that human culture has not progressed sufficiently since a time when the grotesque violation of his wife was “a matter of property . “The screenplay is a factual account of one of the last combat trials in French history, and it carries a righteous sword – fair enough, anyway, to be effective as an almost metaphorical experiment, even if it isn’t. is not always precise.
Our call: Stream it. The last duel is highly watchable, with entertaining performances by its male stars offset by Comer’s spirited performance. It’s also a tonal mishmash, but that’s not enough to deter you from giving it a go.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work on johnserbaatlarge.com.
Where to stream The last duel