My Thoughts on: The Last Duel (2021)

I was so excited by the idea of The Last Duel. It’s directed by Ridley Scott (he who gave us Gladiator and Alien just to name two), it was based on a true story, and its all-star cast included Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver. The 2 1/2 hour run time made me a little antsy, but I’ve sat through long movies before (Avengers: Endgame being the most recent example that I can think of), so I hoped it wouldn’t be an issue. The story, for those not familiar, is based on the true story of when Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris fought a duel to the death after Carrouges’ wife Marguerite accused Le Gris of raping her. It should be a completely compelling story.

Then I actually went to the movie theater and watched The Last Duel and I left disappointed.

It’s not all bad. At its heart, The Last Duel contains a very important message about rape and being held accountable for one’s actions, even if all the world says you shouldn’t say such things. I can’t fault the film in that regard. I should also say that Jodie Comer and Adam Driver both turn in magnificent performances and the titular duel itself is a thing of beauty to behold. If you make it all the way through the movie to the duel, you will not be dissatisfied.

No, my big issue is with how the film is put together. The story elements are good, they really are, but the way they’re put together…a big chunk of the film comes across like a disjointed mess. One scene will cut to another and it’ll take you a few minutes to realize that years have passed between these two scenes. It’s just not how I would’ve imagined a story like this being told. I thought it would be one big epic like Gladiator and that’s not what we get.

The large scale format of how The Last Duel is told is interesting, I’ll give it that. The story is essentially divided into three perspectives, with each retelling of the story emphasizing (or glossing over) certain story elements based on whose perspective is being shared. It’s the classic Rashomon effect, where we see the same story from multiple perspectives, except that instead of the true outcome being left completely up to the audience to decide, it is subtly hinted that one of the viewpoints is actually the true one.

I think part of my problem is that I misunderstood what this story would be about. The trailers led me to believe that the issue at question was whether or not the rape took place. It sounded like this was going to be strictly a case of “he said/she said” with the truth ultimately left unrevealed.Maybe I should’ve known better given what I read of the real life story before going to see the movie…but that’s what I get for misreading the trailer I suppose.

I can’t in good conscience recommend The Last Duel, but I am curious to see what all of you thought about the film. Let me know in the comments below and have a great day!

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