Review: The Last Duel – She said, he dead (or ‘Good Will Hunting’ goes medieval)

The Last Duel proves that even 600 years before social media, civilization had issues with determining and dealing with the truth ...
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The Last Duel

She said, he dead

(or Good Will Hunting goes medieval)

Rating: 8 out of 10.

The new film The Last Duel proves that even 600 years before social media, civilization had issues with determining and dealing with the truth.

Not much has changed in that regard since medieval times, as it seems we are devolving to a period where only might will determine right. (Let’s hope not.)

Based on the 2004 book, The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandale and Trial by Combat by Eric Jager, this film tells the “true” story of a knight, Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), whose wife, Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer), is raped by his one-time friend, Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and the two men fight to the death in a “judicial duel” to determine who is telling the truth.

Ben Affleck plays a blonde Pierre d’Alençon, and I can’t say for sure what position he holds in the 14th century French hierarchy, but he is Jacques Le Gris’ friend and Jean de Carrouges’ enemy and he seems to be of extremely low morals (a typical “statesman” of some type.) 

On a side note, as part of “God’s will” in the dueling process, Marguerite will burn at the stake if her husband should lose the contest, as she will be proven a liar and the instigator of this whole draconian drama. No, this is not the “feel good film of the Fall,” but it is a well acted and often intense exploration into human nature and “alternative facts.”

The Last Duel’s narrative is similar to the 1950 Akira Kurosawa film, Rashomon, in that it tells the story from three different perspectives. First through the eyes of the wronged knight, Jean de Carrouges; then as it was experienced by the accused squire, Jacques Le Gris; and finally from the viewpoint of the victim, Marguerite de Carrouges. (And of course, as a viewer you will be casting your own judgment as well.)

Don’t fear all of the French names, as not even a faux French accent leaves the lips of the primary actors in this film. The most annoying aspect of this movie is that it takes the “Dark Ages” seriously and literally with a picture that is so muddy I was convinced there was a bad lamp in the projector.        

The Last Duel’s screenplay was written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (of Good Will Hunting screenplay fame) and scribe Nicole Holofcener was brought onboard to help with writing the “lady parts” in the film.

Directed by Ridley Scott, my biggest issue with this movie is that the multiple -perspective story device forces the audience to sit through the violent rape sequence twice. And to be honest, I could not tell much difference between the two versions of that event; maybe that was intentional, but the retelling seemed gratuitous and at least one time too many.

The titular duel both starts and climatically ends the film, and it is a violent, intense and edge of your seat experience that makes the Medieval Times restaurants look like casual dining. And not knowing the “real history” of this episode, I had no idea who was going to win the battle.

Except for that one extra rape scene and being a tad bit too long (152 minutes), two things that could have fixed each other, this is a very good, albeit very somber, film. This movie, along with 2000’s Gladiator, proves Ridley Scott is the master of medieval battle sequences, and if that is your thing, you’re going to love this one.

The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.