The latest historical epic from Ridley Scott has bombed at the box office. It grossed a mere £28 million against a budget of £100 million and has been largely forgotten since it was released back in October. Scott himself blames phone obsessed millennials for its failure, but is this accurate? Daniel Evans shares his thoughts…
I am not a millennial, but I would be lying if I said I am not glued to my phone most of the time. However, I can say with certainty that this had little bearing on my desire to see The Last Duel.
certainly deserves to be seen and talked about more
The major issue was with marketing. A film that re-unites Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (for the first time since Good Will Hunting) and talented and popular actors like Jodie Comer and Adam Driver is surely bankable. But I confess, if I had not been looking for new films of this genre, which are exceedingly rare these days, I wouldn’t have been aware of this one. It certainly deserves to be seen and talked about more and it’s a shame that when these films come out they are forgotten almost as soon as they are released.
The film follows a Rashomon structure…This is certainly interesting, as it shows us how each of the three characters perceive the story. Particularly in the case of the male leads, each act presents their self-perception, perceptions that are later shown to be fanciful.
The final act focuses on Marguerite de Carrouges (Comer) and is clearly presented as the truth. It is here that we are shown the many lies and misrepresentations that have been told by Sir Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Driver), revealing the fullness of their narcissism and the true horror of the world they occupy. This structure is not without merit, but it is slightly simplistic. In the case of Le Gris, I was left wondering exactly why we needed his perspective and the lack of time given to Sir Jean meant that many areas of his character lacked proper development.
the standout performance is undoubtedly Jodie Comer
The central performances are, for the most part, very good. Matt Damon does not have much to work with, given that Sir Jean is somewhat one-dimensional. However, Damon does the brooding knight well even if his accent is rather suspect. Adam Driver’s turn as Jacques Le Gris is particularly impressive. He captures the self-centred chauvinism and also the colder indifference that lurks beneath the surface well, providing the film with a detestable antagonist.
But the standout performance is undoubtedly Jodie Comer. She captures the hopelessness of Marguerite’s situation, but also her strength, dignity and humanity. One complaint is that the film should have focused more on Comer as she only takes centre stage in the third act.
There are also strong performances from the supporting cast; Affleck’s surprisingly playful performance as the foppish Pierre d’Alençon, a brief but faithful turn as King Charles VI from Alex Lawther and Harriot Walter’s poignant and layered representation of Nicole de Carrouges all add depth to the world of the film.
If you find depictions of sexual assault distressing I would not recommend seeing this film. This incidentally is also the main issue I have with the film, as it depicts the rape of Marguerite by Le Gris twice. Neither representation is different enough to justify the two perspectives. The first time is just as horrific to watch as the second and borders on exploitation. This is certainly not the film’s intention, but I did leave the cinema questioning the necessity of it.
The titular duel itself is brilliant. There are genuine stakes making it a tense and visceral experience and the brutality of the combat is wince inducing. It is also certainly not a glorification of male strength; it is a representation of a world in which male glory is valued more than the wellbeing of women. Marguerite is not being saved, but having her life put on the line to satisfy the ego of a husband who regards her as nothing more than property.
thought provoking and certainly well intentioned
Millennials and their phones have not killed this film. What has hurt it is indifferent marketing and a world in which people are unwilling to watch films that aren’t a part of a wider cinematic universe. On the whole I would recommend seeing The Last Duel. There are problems, but it is thought provoking and certainly well intentioned. I can only hope it will come to be appreciated more in the future, as it is a worthy addition to the historical genre, attempting to deal with more complex subject matter than many medieval films preceding it.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
In-article image courtesy of @20thcenturystudios via @instagram.com. No changes were made to this image.
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