The Last Duel (2021)

Quick synopsis: Ridley Scott directed film about the events leading up a duel between Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) after Jacques is accused of raping Sir Jean’s wife (Jodie Comer).

I had heard mixed things about this. Some people had said it’s incredibly boring and muddled, some have said it’s an incredibly powerful piece of cinema. In my opinion it’s a mixture of both. It’s an incredibly powerful piece of cinema, that’s quite boring in parts. There are moments where it goes on too long, the ending in particular probably could have been trimmed. As it is the final shots are Jean and Marguerite riding out slowly on horseback through a crowd as Jacques’ body is stripped naked and strung up. It then skips forward and we see Marguerite sitting in a garden happy with her child. We’re then told she lived happily (well as happily as a woman could in those days) for another 30 years. So did we really need to see her in the garden? It’s not even mentioned on the wikipedia page for the film, that’s how unessential it is.

There are also a few moments I feel could have been longer (which in a film that’s 2 and a half hours long, is not something I thought I’d say). There’s a moment where a character essentially punches someone to death. The film cuts away just after he stops punching. Personally I’d have left it for a little bit longer so the full weight of the moment lingers with the audience, you would get a chance to sit and be truly f*cking horrified in what you’ve just seen.

That’s most of my criticisms of this film. They’re not “this film did this badly and it should feel bad”. It’s almost all personal preferences. All the flaws are “yeah that’s not right TO ME”. There’s one moment which I think exemplifies this. The rape itself. We first are aware of it from Jean’s POV, where he comes home and is told by his wife what happened. We see nothing. We then see it from Jacques’ POV, and it’s pretty clear that he did rape her. She’s a little bit more flirty than she is when we see the reality, but not enough that a normal person could justify it. That’s because we do see it. If the film stayed at looks which could be seen as flirtatious, made it so her looks back as she ran away had a more seductive air to them, then cut away as soon as the bedroom door closed, we would have a moment of ambiguity. We would wonder if it did happen as she said it, especially if they played up the pregnancy angle and made it seem like people would know the child isn’t her husbands. It would also mean that when we did see the truth, it would horrify us more. As it is we’re sitting there mentally comparing it to when we saw it play out earlier. We’re not lost in the moment, we’re thinking “okay, last time we saw this scene she stayed still, but this time she moved quicker”. Again, personal preference, and not a direct criticism of the film.

The way they this film is shown is unique, it’s really interesting to see how different people view certain events. There are a few moments where I would have liked to have seen from different angles but are restricted to just one. Not needed, but it would have been nice to get the truth about certain events we see.

It may be set in 1386, but there are some moments which are depressingly relevant in modern times. There’s a moment where people say that it’s impossible to get pregnant from rape, that a woman has to orgasm for pregnancy to occur. An idea that is, yes, woefully outdated, but also one that American lawmakers still believed in 2012, actually let me rephrase that: one that American dickheads still believed in two-thousand and fucking twelve because they’re cunts (for those asking why I didn’t censor that, but I did censor f*cking earlier I should clarify what the house style is for swear words: whatever I feel like at that particular moment is the rule).

So in summary, I feel you probably should watch this, but there’s a high chance you’ll be bored shitless. But you should admire parts of it.

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