A Smashing Adventure
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener have fashioned an exciting adventure tale from a book by Eric Jager. Allegedly based on a true story, The Last Duel takes place way back in the 1300s, so how much of it is true could be questionable. I’m sure Mr. Jager did extensive research. And the screenwriters may have fluffed up the story to make it more palatable for today’s movie audiences. But all that doesn’t matter because this offering ends up as a smashingly exciting film with terrific performances by the seasoned cast.
Matt Damon (Jean de Carrouges), one of the biggest movie stars in the world today, gets teamed up with the equally vigorous Adam Driver (Jacques Le Gris) as best friends. Damon is a knight and Driver is a squire. Both are staggeringly handsome and young, and that plays into the drama of the story.
As a knight, de Carrouges (Damon) must occasionally leave town to fight in various skirmishes. He has married the beautiful Marguerite de Carrouges (Jody Comer), a stunningly attractive damsel who stands out in the grungy village in which they live. Not only physically attractive, Marguerite is also smart, independent, and strong -- a precursor to the independent women of today. In her village, there is a paucity of thinking woman as all bow to their husband’s wishes.
When the cat’s away, the mice will play, to coin a stunningly original phrase. Adam’s Jacques is young, randy, sexy as can be, and ready for action. Will he grab the first opportunity to fire up his testosterone when he gets the chance?
That opportunity presents itself when de Carrouges is away, leaving Marguerite alone in the castle. Jacques pounces at the right moment—or does he? In what could be a fantasy of imagination on Marguerite’s mind, or the real thing caused by Jacques, a brutal rape takes place. Director Ridley Scott has chosen to show how horrible it is for a woman to be raped, and he spares no terrible, degrading scene and the humiliation experienced. Being twice her physical size, Jacques overpowers her and she hasn’t a chance. But did this really happen or is it a figment of her imagination?
In any event, Marguerite claims in 1386 that her husband’s best friend has raped her. This scandal can only be solved in a trial by duel by the two men. King Charles VI (a fey Alex Lawther), approves the duel. Again, director Scott shows no restraint in showing the brutality of a horseback duel, and the blood squirts voluminously in a never-ending horror show.
One incident raised my eyebrows, although nothing phases me. Ben Affleck’s character used the “F” word, not only once, but twice. What startled me was not the word, but the possibility it was not even used in the 1300s. It seems the word is Germanic in origin and meant “to strike” or “to move back and forth.” It was found to be used around 1528. Although there is evidence a Scottish poet used the word in 1513, but not exactly in a sexual way. In any case, it is all confusing as to the origin, but it seems that word didn’t appear in the 1300s.
The Last Duel is more or less an exciting adventure, and all the cast members deliver fine performances. Particularly watchable is veteran actress Harriet Walter as Damon’s evil mother. She out-hisses Angela Lansbury’s famous evil mother role in The Manchurian Candidate from years ago. Zelko Ivanek as Le Coq shows what a seasoned actor can do with a supporting role. But most of the accolades must go to Jody Comer. She is brilliant in her scenes of terror while being raped, and sensitive in other scenes requiring introspection. She should be heavily considered in the next Oscar® race.
(Released by 20th Century Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Rated “R” for strong violence, including sexual assault, sexual content, graphic nudity, and language.)