Movie Review: The Last Duel (2021)

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Although it’s a true story set in medieval France during the Hundred Years War, Ridley Scott’s historical drama The Last Duel (B+) explores timeless truths about gender and power. Relative newcomer to film roles Jodie Comer turns in a phenomenal performance as a woman who is viciously assaulted and refuses to stay silent, stepping forward to accuse her attacker, an act of bravery and defiance that puts her life in jeopardy and sets the stage for the titular sanctioned death match. Matt Damon plays her often narcissistic and oblivious husband, Adam Driver a friend turned bitter rival and Ben Affleck an enabling playboy. The film is told in three Rashomon style acts, each from distinct vantage points of the husband, the attacker and the wife; and while each adds more to the mosaic mystery, the final episode of the trio is the most stunning. Scott does a good job balancing the grandeur of the opulent sets and gorgeous costume drama while still presenting the building blocks of information in a way that continues to feel fresh up to and through the film’s promised jousting climax. Some of the characters could have been even more deeply observed rather than simply functioning as allegories, but the ripe and ribald dialogue keeps the plot and its people consistently entertaining. Comer is a revelation in a role reflecting the treatment of women in the present day through a fourteenth-century lens. Scott has crafted a glorious film; quite frankly, this is the type of movie in which he most excels. And the message in the battle will stick with you long after the fight to the finish.

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