France, 1386. Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) are untitled noblemen serving King Charles VI (Alex Lawther). Rod de Carrouges – ancient and famous, Jean’s father serves as the captain of the garrison, and de Carrouges hopes that after the death of his father this position will go to him. However, Jean’s financial affairs are in a deplorable state, moreover, during the plague, he lost his wife and child, his heir.
Jacques Le Gris is of less noble origin, but he is well educated, reads Latin and understands various financial matters well, and this makes a good impression on the king’s cousin Count Pierre of Alençon (Ben Affleck), who brings Jacques Le Gris closer and trusts him exacting tribute from their vassals.
In order to improve his financial position and obtain an heir, Jean de Carrouges marries Marguerite (Jodie Comer), the daughter of Sir de Tibouville (Nathaniel Parker), which causes great displeasure of Count Pierre, because the Count considers Sir de Tibouville a traitor to the interests of the king.
And then Le Gris forced Sir de Tibouville, on account of arrears, to give the count a particularly valuable piece of land that Jean de Carrouges was supposed to receive as a dowry, and Jean filed a lawsuit to return this land to him. The king rejected the claim, and this story, of course, did not add Count Pierre’s sympathy to de Carrouge, and the relationship between de Carrouge and Le Gris, who had known each other since military campaigns and even seemed to be friends, also completely deteriorated.
After some time, Marguerite, who is worried about the fact that de Carrouges quarreled with everyone, persuades her husband to attend a holiday arranged by Le Gris. At the celebration, Margarita meets Le Gris and understands that he is a bright, spectacular and educated person, much more interesting than her lumberjack husband. Le Gris himself also clearly pays attention to de Carrouge’s wife.
It is not for nothing that the picture is called “The Last Duel”, because it is about a really happened, last knightly duel in the history of France (it would be more correct to call it a knightly duel, because duels as such appeared only in the 15th century). About this event, the writer Eric Jaeger wrote the book “The Last Duel: A True Story of the Ordeal of Battle in Medieval France”, which served as the basis for the script “The Last Duel”, which was developed by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener.
To be honest, I was a bit wary of watching Sir Ridley Scott’s new – sort of historical – film, because we know how this wonderful (no nonsense) director can handle history. By the way, I’m not talking about “Gladiator” now, which has nothing to do with history at all: it’s just a super-successful action movie, which for some reason was called a historical drama, but in fact turned out to be actually a comic book movie. I’m talking about those paintings that seem to be quite seriously pretending to be historical, without a fig in your pocket. Serious absurdities have already been observed in the “Kingdom of Heaven”, and the picture, to be honest, was not very successful and actually failed at the box office.
Well, from the recent one – this nightmarish “Robin Hood”, in comparison with which even “Gladiator” looked like a downright historical drama, because it had to be filmed in such a madhouse: the cat Bublik after watching it still remembers everything from time to time, so startled! At the box office, by the way, it also specifically failed (not Bagel the cat failed, but Robin Hood).
So what did he end up doing with The Last Duel? Here, fortunately, everything is far from being as bad as with Robin Hood. Here, an interesting, although not completely new approach is applied (it seems to have been used for the first time in Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon”): the film is divided into several parts, in each of which the relevant events are presented from the point of view of three main characters – de Carrouge, Le Gris and Marguerite. And, of course, their views on events will differ markedly.
When you first watch this story, told from the point of view of de Carrouge, it all looks good, but boring. If everything was told about this from one person, then, most likely, it would turn out to be quite dreary (and de Carrouges as such is clearly not a very significant character). But the change of point of view noticeably enlivens the picture, and I think that it was well thought out, although it should be noted that the views of both participants in the key event, that is, the rape of Le Gris Marguerite in the absence of de Carrouge (this is not a spoiler, because this is directly says in the announcement), because of which that same duel took place, they practically do not differ in what happened – well, except for interpretations.
The acting work in the film is good, all four key actors really liked it.
Matt Damon Jean de Carrouges turned out to be a kind of stars from the sky, a lacking, but fearless warrior who felt much more confident on the battlefields than in ordinary life, where he experienced financial difficulties and, in his opinion, suffered various injustices from the side like others people, and his own father, who did not consider his son worthy of becoming the captain of the garrison. Jean tried to get justice through the courts, but when you are suing a much higher-ranking aristocrat, and also a cousin of the king, then you have no chance. But Jean still gets involved in this hopeless case – well, such is his character.
Adam Driver turned out to be a completely different character. Jacques Le Gris achieved everything himself, he did not have any patrons. Therefore, he sought the patronage of Count Pierre and showed great zeal in such a thankless task as knocking out debts from the Count’s vassals. At the same time, Jacques Le Gris is a success with women, and they, together with the count, a great lover of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting, indulge in love affairs with great pleasure.
When Le Gris met Marguerite, whom he immediately liked, he perceived the fact that such an educated and interesting woman was married to the narrow-minded Jean de Carrouge, not only as an insult, but as a certain injustice. Le Gris is absolutely sure that Margarita will not be able to resist his charms, and when he tricks him into de Carrouge’s house and declares his love for Margarita, he regards her refusal to enter into a relationship with him as a fact of an ordinary love game.
A very curious character, and once again I am amazed at how Adam Driver, with his somewhat dull face, manages to play very interesting roles. However, this actor also knows how to demonstrate vivid emotions, which we could observe in a good picture “Marriage Story”, which is actually not a marriage, but a divorce.
Quite unexpectedly, I really liked Ben Affleck as Count Pierre of Alençon. As an actor, Affleck is usually rather dull (but he is much better as a director), but here his count, who also received a funny “true Aryan” hair color, is very perky and eager for pleasure. I haven’t seen Affleck in such a bright and energetic role for a long time, and it was nice to look at him, otherwise, as soon as I remember the story of how his almost crying Batman walks and frowns at Superman, I immediately want to reconsider some comedy.
Jodie Comer is a good actress (I really liked her in “The Main Character”): charming and charismatic. It seemed to me that she did a good job of demonstrating the situation in which her heroine found herself, and how she tried to get out of this situation. Marguerite is clearly superior in intelligence and education to Jean de Carrouge, but at that time women did not choose whom they would marry: it was a purely pragmatic question and it would not have occurred to her father to ask her daughter’s consent to marry.
It is obvious that she was not happy with de Carrouge, it is obvious that Le Gris interested her, but at the same time it is obvious that she did not want to enter into a love relationship with him behind her husband’s back. Yes, and it was not about love relationships: Monsieur Le Gris simply decided to satisfy his passion, and with this, according to his strong conviction, to do favor to Margarita, but the fact that she kind of resisted – well, that’s how she had to resist, in this is the whole charm of love games, this is exactly what turns noble gentlemen on.
When in the section of the picture with a view from the point of view of Marguerite on the whole story in the very episode of violence there were practically no differences with the way it was shown from the side of Le Gris, at first I thought that Ridley Scott had started this section in vain, because it does not carry anything new, but after looking at the whole picture, I decided that I was actually wrong: it shows various subtle moments of Margarita’s relationship with her husband, mother-in-law and her friend, and in this her character is revealed much more.
Well, let’s not forget that, according to the laws of that time, if God’s judgment, that is, a knightly duel, led to the fact that de Carrouges lost, then Margarita would immediately be burned because she dared to slander a nobleman: according to the legal laws of that time, if you won in a joust of this kind, when the court could not establish the truth and the duel remained the only means of deciding the case, then the one who won was right.
From the point of view of recreating those times, the picture was done very well – in the opinion, of course, of the most ordinary viewers, not specialists. Because historians, of course, will find a lot of reasons, and quite fair ones, to find fault with costumes, weapons and armor, historical characters (for example, the queen at that time was about sixteen years old, and in the film she was ten years older), but I , for example, the fact that the French from Normandy speak modern American English was much more irritating, and there, except that the “fuck you”, so beloved by Ridley Scott, does not sound, although, it seems, it sounded once.
But it is clear that this is not a historical reconstruction and not a documentary, so the audience does not care at all about how consonant with the era the costumes and armor are, and the director himself is not used to somehow bathe in historical accuracy. However, in this case, at least the entourage looks more or less authentic – from a philistine point of view – and there are no such obvious mistakes and terrible clichés as in “Robin Hood”, with which I still cannot understand what it was all about, but most importantly – WHY?!
So I can say I liked it. An interesting story that began to be shown from a completely different point of view at the moment when it became almost boring, a very good game of the main actors (here is the character of Marton Csokas, it seemed to me, was somewhat intrusive, and it was completely in vain that he was brought to the fore), a good recreation of a historical era – at least from a Hollywood point of view, where it is not the first time to shoot a specific “cranberry” – in general, downright offset! After “Robin Hood” I thought that with such films the master would be completely sad, but no, it turned out, in my opinion, even well.
The Last Duel review
Director: Ridley Scott Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Harriet Walter, Ben Affleck, Alex Lawther, Marton Csokas, William Huston, Oliver Cotton, Aurelien Lornier
Budget: $100 million, Global gross: $30 million
Historical drama, USA-UK, 2021, 152 min.