7.5/10 Despite this being a hard watch for many audiences members either due to the two and a half hour running time (something that never bothers me if the film is strong) or the horrific subject matter (rape), “The Last Duel” is a true and important story with director Ridley Scott bringing his talent for epic scope and scale to a tale that feels custom made for him. My 9th most anticipated film of 2021, “The Last Duel” is tremendous from a production value standpoint. Scott and his team have made so many epic period pieces at this point (“Gladiator”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, etc.) that he could probably do this in his sleep. Yet it still demands plaudits to his teams in charge of production design, costume design, hair & make-up, etc. While many sets are practical, CGI is used to such great effect that you will think that everything you see is real and practical. The score from Harry Gregson-Williams and the cinematography from Scott regular Dariusz Wolski are superb and really transport you back in time. While all of these elements are expected to be great, it is always impressive at how easy Scott makes it all look. The most important aspect of every film, however, is the script. Actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (with the help of Oscar nominee Nicole Holofcener) reunite after having won Best Original Screenplay for their first and most recent screenplay, 1997’s “Good Will Hunting”. They’ve spend decades in the industry since their first screenplay acting and in Affleck’s case directing and their years of experience helps this screenplay be considered a strong one. The film is broken down into three chapters, each one giving a separate point of view of the events which took place. This style of storytelling is used to great effect and it was fascinating seeing a couple of the same scenes but from different perspectives to notice the subtle differences. In telling a story, people tend to exaggerate or bend the truth to make themselves the good guy. We see that here from the two male perspectives and see how tragic things were for all women in general all those centuries ago when women were considered their father’s property and then their husband’s property. While powerful men have been corrupt from the beginning of time through 14th century France up until today and into tomorrow, the only optimism to be found in this story is how much progress has been made over the years. On a personal note, I always find it comically ill-informed how women in 2021 in the Western world will complain about the patriarchy and being held down when women have never had more rights, freedom and power than in any point in history than today. While that doesn’t mean injustices don’t take place (they certainly do and sadly, always will), everyone, male or female, should be thankful they live today and not back in the Middle Ages and this film is a stark reminder of that and how far society has come. The real hero of this story is Marguerite de Carrouges, played expertly by Jodie Comer. While most women tragically just had to put up with rape as an unpleasant part of life, Carrouges dared to do what few women would do at the time which was simply to speak up and risk her life in the process. She is a strong reminder of what anyone unfortunate enough today to suffer from sexual assault should do, even though many don’t for their own personal reasons. As for what didn’t work, despite the phenomenal acting from the main four cast members (Comer, Damon, Affleck and Adam Driver), Damon, Affleck and Driver’s French characters don’t speak with a French accent or seem French at all. While this didn’t ruin the film going experience for me, it was noticeable. I also wish Scott would have ended the film just one scene earlier to further illustrate the hardships that Carrouges went through, despite my understanding of why Scott ended things on a more upbeat note. Since the film is all about her bravery and hardships, I think it would have been better to end on the point of bringing that home, rather than joy, seeing as how her joy is almost non-existent in this story. I am glad I didn’t research what happened before seeing this film, as the duel that the film’s title refers to was extremely exciting and I found myself on the edge of my seat. The multiple perspectives aspect and screenwriting paired with Scott’s direction firing on all cylinders makes this a film worth seeking out, should the long running time and harsh subject matter not scare you away.

#MEdievalToo / #AdamHorseDriver / #FreeLie / #AKnightsWail / #WorstKnight / #DuelAndUnusualPunishment

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