The Last Duel is based on the true story of the events that led to the final officially sanctioned and recorded duel in France’s history between Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) after Le Gris is accused of rape by Jean’s wife Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer).
The Last Duel is written by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener and tackles this story from the perspectives of the three major players in this conflict, taking clear inspiration from Rashomon, Jean de Carrouges, Jacques Le Gris, and finally Marguerite de Carrouges.
The first scene in both Jean and Jacques’ stories is the same bloody battle told from two different perspectives and it sets the stage for how each of them sees not only themselves, but the other. Each man believes themselves to be the hero in their own story having saved the life of the other in this battle.
Each man’s perspective paints the other in the light of their own personal antagonist. Jean sees Jacques as a former friend poisoning people against him while Jean is constantly trying to fight for a just cause and act as a loving husband. While Jacques sees Jean as a self-righteous boorish man full of envy for his station and undeserving of the beauty he has married.
However, the most compelling story is the third act of The Last Duel when the story shifts to Marguerite’s perspective. No longer relegated to the role of demure doting wife or beauty to be won she becomes a fully three dimensional character. The nuance that Comer was able to infuse into her performances in the first two acts lends itself impressively to the scenes that differ when told from the perspective of each man, but her talents shine through as the truth becomes clear. The third act strips away the slanted view of Jean and Jacques showing them for the selfish vain men they are, making it the most compelling act in the film.
JODIE COMER IS THE CLEAR STAND OUT IN THE LAST DUEL
The Last Duel has a truly masterful cast. Damon does a fantastic job as the self-righteous knight who sees any perceived slight as a personal attack. Ben Affleck is the wonderfully sleazy nobleman as Count Pierre d’Alencon. Adam Driver is especially strong in the role of Jacques Le Gris, infusing the character with charm and a dangerous privileged predator lurking underneath.
But Comer is the clear stand out of The Last Duel, able to transform herself into completely different interpretations of her character depending on which perspective the story is being told from. The intelligence, grace, and quiet strength she brings to Marguerite is truly amazing, but the world weary victim of sexual assault with a determination for justice elevates her performance to levels that are truly a sight to see.
The Last Duel doesn’t have too many action sequences, but those that are there stand out in the raw kinetic brutality and the gruesome reality of close combat in the Middle Ages. The duel itself is masterfully shot with impressive fight choreography that makes it truly cinematic in scope. The entire film has been building to this bloody scene and Scott does not disappoint.
The Last Duel hinges on the fact that in the 14th century rape was a crime not against the woman who was assaulted, but the man whom she belonged to. It was considered a property crime and this is at the heart of the entire film. The Last Duel is full of horrific reminders of Marguerite’s lack of agency from her father and Jean negotiating her dowry to how she is questioned and accused after stepping forward with the truth.
One scene that makes this message especially clear in The Last Duel is between Jacques and Pierre, a peek behind the curtain in how powerful men can manipulate the system to their advantage. Le Gris’ own personal denial and the behaviors he has learned from this very system make him even more deplorable. And while it is set in 14th century France, so many elements are either disturbingly reminiscent of events that still happen today or clear through lines in how our system is set up against those it should be protecting.
The Last Duel shows the assault itself not once, but twice on screen. The perspective change meant to show the difference in view between the attacker and his victim, but Scott is careful to make it clear even when told from Le Gris’ perspective this was unquestioningly an assault. These scenes will be difficult for many audience members to watch with the rape scene being long, brutal, and horrifying. Be mindful of this when deciding to see The Last Duel.
Overall, The Last Duel is an impressively told story of male vanity and the horrors it can lead to. With masterful performances from an all-star cast and fantastic direction from Ridley Scott. The Last Duel manages to make Comer’s Marguerite the hero of the story when she has likely been seen as merely the catalyst, historically.
The Last Duel is exclusively in theaters October 15, 2021. The Last Duel is directed by Ridley Scott and written by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener. The Last Duel stars Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie, Comer, and Ben Affleck. Are you planning to see The Last Duel? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media.