Image: Adam Driver and Matt Damon as Jacque Le Gris and Jean de Carrouges, respectively [Source: Entertainment Weekly]
King Charles VI declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.
The Last Duel made quite a quiet entry into the cinemas. Strange for something laden with talent and charisma. At its helm is Ridley Scott who at 83 is still producing such refined and terrific work. The Last Duel is no exception, it’s a stellar addition to Scotts body of work and is quite a remarkable story and as timely as ever.
The real star of the show is Jodie Comer who stars as the wife of Jean De Carrouges, Marguerite. She is also the cause of the titular duel. The film opens with the beginning of said fight. Before we quickly go to the events preceding it from the perspective of Matt Damon’s Jean De Carrouges. The film details the same set of events and time span across three different point of views. It’s the Rashimon effect. By the time the second point of view is finished you see the effect in full glory as events change both subtlety to fit a characters frame of reference as well as their personal beliefs. We also see things change on the large part to suit their side of the story and how things happened, most notably is the feud between Jean and Jacques (Adam Driver) which is throughly played wonderfully by both Matt Damon and more predominantly, Adam Driver. Who oozes charisma and gravitas as Le Gris, looking as though he were audition himself for every gothic aesthetic part imaginable.
At first the Rashimon structure was difficult to get to grips with, as it got into the second telling however I found myself playing along as if I were a judge who were be casting a vote as to who was innocent and who was guilty. It added some much needed tension to the looming duel behind it all, set out at the very beginning so you recall where all this is leading to. However, by the time it got to Marguerite’s telling, which undoubtedly would be the most intriguing. Proceeded with a heavy implication that her truth, was thy truth. It felt rather like all the motivation had been sucked from the picture. All of sudden the “mystery” so to speak had vanished, the tension was gone and watching Comer perform an absolute powerhouse of a performance was great and poignant to say the least but I personally might have found the final moments of the film far more striking and the narrative far more complex if it weren’t so evident and direct about who was lying and who deserved to live.
Admittedly this might have been me missing the point of the picture. In hindsight looking back on the film after watching, I realised that the story was more about how women through history and even now. Are sidelined. The whole point of what was happening was everything to do with Marguerite and Le Gris and yet it turned into an excuse for two men to swivel the issue into settling their feud. By the end of the picture you aren’t so much wanting to see which of the two men was right and who was lying so you know who to root for. You should already know, it’s Carrouges. For if he loses, Marguerite who has been shown to be preyed on, would suffer a dire fate.
It’s a film that blends this whole theme terrifically throughout its structure, with metaphorical nods to the truth and thematic performances that blend beautifully into the absolutely superb costume design and cinematography. Ultimately it’s a terrifically crafted film with stand out performances and is regrettable that it has not received much attention at the box office.