I totally forgot that movies like The Last Duel still existed. With a runtime of over two and a half hours, you simply know this movie is going to take up your entire evening. You get ready for it, expecting something grand and dazzling. I have to tell you straight away that it felt authentic as shit. Now, as someone who grew up on Gladiator, Troy, and Kingdom of Heaven, I was expecting something similar. After all, Kingdom of Heaven is Ridley Scott’s movie. You know the type of movie I’m talking about. The one with stunning visuals, a larger-than-life story, and spectacular action scenes. The one that although you know it really happened feels like a fairy tale. A fairy tale for adults. Well, The Last Duel is not that type of movie.
It’s much more of an immersive and thought-provoking experience that does feature some really intense scenes. One of which will blast you within the first five minutes of the movie. Just think of it as one of the more subdued episodes of Game of Thrones. I wouldn’t call it a medieval soap opera but you should know it’s been called that. There will be a couple of grand scenes but we will spend most of our time elsewhere. It’s focused on the trial and subsequent duel between Jean de Carrouges and his friend, Jacques Le Gris. We will examine everything that led up to this supposedly last duel in France from three different perspectives. After a bit of research, I found out that this may have been the last trial by combat but certainly not the last duel in France.
Now that we got that out of the way, I want to say fuck the royalty! Fuck their titles, customs, and all the other shit they usher into this world. And I know it’s much more “cinematic” to focus on court intrigue and we have a lot of historical records about these events but still. We know that the rest of the population in France lived horrible lives. Especially compared to the decadence that went on in the nobleman’s castles. So, watching these people who had the privilege to live these easy lives just rubs me the wrong way. I will grant them the whole fighting thing although I’m not sure how that went either. Anywhoo, I just wanted to highlight that, so let’s move on.
It is the year of our lord 1386 and a very special duel is about to take place in the city of Paris. Jean de Carrouges, a battle-hardened warrior and a brash man will fight Jacques Le Gris, a talented and physically imposing captain. The two men are and were friends for many years, fighting in wars and serving the same count. However, after one incident all of that is going to change.
If you’re expecting non-stop action from The Last Duel, you will be disappointed. If, however, you’re willing to immerse yourself into this story, you will be greatly rewarded. The storytelling is captivating albeit a bit sluggish, reveling in the medieval atmosphere. There were a couple of unnecessary scenes caused by the whole three-angles gimmick but in for a penny in for a pound as they say. Plus, I really don’t think that Matt Damon had to have that mullet. It was just too distracting and seemed like something that Matt and Ben, who also wrote the script came up with.
After the opening scene showing the first few seconds of a duel, we go back in time to see what led to it. And after about two hours of preparations, we finally dive back into that juicy fight with glorious results. Although, as I already mentioned, I wasn’t really emotionally invested in any of the characters that fucking duel was really intense. It’s like you’ve been foreplaying for two hours and then you actually get to have sex. So, there’s that. If you want to know more about what really happened check out HROARRs What Really Happened at The Last Duel?
I also liked how Scott didn’t avoid showing these lavish scenes but the way he framed them was just perfect. It was like yeah sure, that’s happening, but more important things are also happening at the same time. We glance over stunning shots of medieval Paris and various castles. I will also skip praising set design, props, and everything else when it comes to visuals. The same goes for the acting department. I mean, you know this is one of those huge movies where everybody will give an amazing performance. Granted, Adam and Jodie were better than Matt and Ben but that’s not really that important. It’s hard to imagine an 84-year-old man making such a current and intelligent movie but it is nonetheless true.
About halfway through The Last Duel, you’ll realize that I didn’t write about the most important element of this movie. I think it’s better you discover it for yourselves as the movie did such a good job of portraying it. Finally, if you’re looking for something to watch after this movie, I recommend Black ’47 and The Nightingale. You can also check out Luc Besson’s 1999 masterpiece The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc starring Milla Jovovich.
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon
Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Harriet Walter, Ben Affleck, Marton Csokas, Alex Lawther, Nathaniel Parker
Fun Facts: Matt Damon cannot grow facial hair so he had to wear a fake beard the entire time. This beard caused rashes and itching so after each scene poor Matt had to use ice to calm his skin.