Let The Court Decide

The Last Duel
Stars: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck, Harriet Walter, Nathaniel Parker, Alex Lawther  and Marton Csokas
Director: Ridley Scott
Scriptwriters: Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck based on “The Last Duel” book by Eric Jager
Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski
Company: Scott Free Productions/20th Century Studios
Running Length: 154 Minutes 

“The Last Duel,” from Eric Jager’s book, is just that---the last duel---by legal means to settle a dispute. This happened in the 14th century and involved knights, kings, property (and this included wives), honor and most of all—pride. The subject is the rape of the wife of a Squire by the Squire’s best friend. The wife claims it happened, while the best friend said it did not happen. If this sounds familiar, it is still happening today, just read your local newspaper. In the 14th century, however, to settle the dispute, the husband asks for a duel. Thus goes the new life track of three people, the woman, her husband and the accused. Lives are in the balance. Matt Damon (“Stillwater”) is Jean de Carroughes, the husband, while Jodie Comer (television’s “Killing Eve”) is Marguerite de Carroughes, the wife.  Adam Driver (“Star Wars”), the accused, is Jacques Le Gris, the best friend. Oh, yes, and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (“The Accountant”) are together as a team, in scriptwriting with Nicole Holofcener.. Affleck, in this film, is Count Pierre d’Alencon, who is the leader of both men. The stage is set for a duel. There is added peril, for if Marguerite is proved wrong, she dies by burning at the stake. The 14th century was not a kind time in which to live. Director Ridley Scott gives the audience plenty of action. Composer Harry Gregson-Williams and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski bring drama to the screen as well as the actors. 

The story is told in three parts, with Matt Damon’s Jean, coming first. He is known as a fighter, but with a temper. Never has enough money and when he comes back from a war, finds that part of his family lands were given to other people, and not only that, but there are taxes to pay. His best friend, Le Gris, tries to help, but can’t. Eventually, Jean marries Marguerite and her dowry goes for debts. Le Gris, however, has his eye on Marguerite. 

Adam Driver’s, Le Gris, is also a Squire, but by a bit of intrigue, manages to rise to a good station in this society. He is friends with a wealthy count.  When he meets Marguerite for the first time, her beauty attracts him, and he thinks she has an eye for him. After the rape accusation, he claims no crime was committed, and that she loves him. At this point, Jean asks for a duel to settle the matter. 

 Marguerite’s story, and her money doesn’t do much for Jean’s debts. Le Gris is the villain, but, with the arrogance of men at that time period, thinks he can do what he pleases. Hence, the duel and what a duel it is. Director Ridley Scott puts the audience right there in the duel, complete with clanging armor

At over 150 minutes, be sure you have plenty of popcorn and soda pop. There are no dull moments here, but the story does go on and on, especially being told three ways. Ben Affleck with light colored hair took two glances to recognize. What comes across to the audience is that women have no rights in this feudal society and men think it is their due to go off to war leaving the wives home to fend for themselves. Communication is nil, so it could be years before you know if your husband is dead or alive. 

Matt Damon’s “Jean,” is clumsy in behavior and has a quick temper. Damon does this character just right. Adam Driver, on the other hand, looks like a villain, and as soon as you see him on screen, you know he is up to no good. Ben Affleck does fine as the head of that particular realm, but it is Jodie Comer who shines in this film. Her facial expressions---when she allows herself to have an expression—are finely done. She can’t speak outwardly sometimes, but her eyes and face give her real emotions away. Men had all the power and women had no rights. This is a society of titles and riches and if you don’t have either, you are out of the game. Here, people scramble to get just a whiff of riches. 

 Copyright 2021 Marie Asner