Movies

Matt Damon. Ben Affleck. A Medieval #MeToo Story. What Could Go Wrong?

The Last Duel is indefensibly stupid, and also sort of amusing.

Adam Driver and Matt Damon lock eyes atop their steads, their gazes piercing their chain mail. Damon wears a goatee bushing out from his chin and a fashion mullet.
20th Century Studios

Ridley Scott’s medieval #MeToo drama The Last Duel opens large as it units the stage for a 1386 duel to the loss of life among armored fighters on horseback. Just as the first blow is set to be struck, the tale cuts to 26 years in advance, when the two warring parties, the knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and the squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) fought facet by side in the Hundred Years’ War. With that temporal shift, the movie’s factor of view adjustments as well, as a name promises us “the fact in line with Jean de Carrouges.” Instead of a Gladiator-fashion warfare epic, it appears, we have entered a Rashomon-inflected psychological thriller in which the equal occasion can be reconstructed from three one-of-a-kind points of view.

The first 0.33 of the movie, scripted through Damon, tells the tale of the wedding of Jean de Carrouges to Marguerite (Jodie Comer), the lovely and properly-educated daughter of a knight who has fallen into disfavor for his disloyalty to the king. The bride is supposed to include a dowry that includes a precious parcel of land, however way to the machinations of Le Gris’ buddy and protector, the louche Count Pierre D’Alençon (Ben Affleck), the real estate in question winds up being taken away from him and given to Le Gris. The guys’s battle-forged friendship turns into a bitter enmity over the following years because the speeding, urbane Le Gris profits desire within the eyes of King Charles VI (Alex Lawther), a sulky adolescent with a stated sadistic streak. Carrouges is Le Gris’ polar opposite in demeanor, a crude, glowering type regarded for his braveness in conflict as opposed to his wit and charm in court docket.

When Carrouges returns from a quick trip to be advised by using Marguerite that Le Gris has taken gain of his absence to benefit admittance to their citadel and rape her, the story’s perspectival splintering comes into play. Carrouges vows to avenge Marguerite, much less out of difficulty for his wife’s wellbeing than because of the hatred he bears towards his longtime rival. As the trial receives beneath manner, the second one bankruptcy of the film starts: Now we see the same occasions from Le Gris’s point of view, with the character of Carrouges coming off now not as a valorous warrior but as a petty, grudge-retaining landowner. (This phase of the movie become written with the aid of Affleck, who become at the beginning set to play Le Gris.) Even in Le Gris’ self-serving retelling, the stumble upon among him and his former pal’s wife is unequivocally proven as a rape. Though he provides himself to her on bended knee as a lovestruck courtier, when she orders him to go away, he has no compunction about taking her via force. It’s a hard scene to observe even in a film full of brutal conflict sequences, and in the 1/3 chapter, instructed from Marguerite’s factor of view and scripted with the aid of the writer-director Nicole Holofcener, it's going to only get tougher.

When the phrases “the reality in step with Marguerite de Carrouges” seem to mark off that last section, the phrase “fact” lingers longer on display than the relaxation of the identify card, tipping off the target market that this model is the closest we can get to what simply occurred, not just between rapist and sufferer but among husband and spouse. The wedding ceremony night time Carrouges’ account provided as soft and jointly pleasing turns into, in her retelling, a brusque and loveless deflowering. A later scene indicates Carrouges berating and humiliating his spouse for carrying a fashionably low-reduce get dressed. The crime of rape, one legal adviser tells Le Gris, is “a belongings be counted,” with the woman gambling a role no longer notably special from that stolen parcel of land that commenced the feud between the 2 men. Marguerite’s model of the tale emphasizes the ugly misogyny on the coronary heart of the criminal system. As she is cross-examined on trial, she is again and again requested whether or not she loved her own sexual assault, an act of rhetorical violence not unfamiliar to survivors in our very own day and age.

The Last Duel is based totally on a actual-life event, the last legally sanctioned duel to the demise to be fought in France, as chronicled in a 2005 e book via Eric Jager. Though period information are minutely located on the extent of costume, setting, and production layout, with the southwestern French place of Nouvelle-Aquitaine status in for medieval Paris and Normandy, the talk is frequently pointedly contemporary, now and again with what looks as if a intentionally campy part. As Affleck’s libertine lord invites his best bro Le Gris to enroll in his orgy, he grants the immortal line “Come in! Take off your pants!” Later, in a scene that unsubtly foreshadows the poisonous machismo of the very last duel, Damon’s Carrouges stops a runaway stallion from mating along with his prize mare via beating the tumescent steed with a shovel.

Comer, great known as the psychopathic hitwoman Villanelle in TV’s Killing Eve, has a sly intelligence that fits her perfectly to the a part of a female whose freedom and delight are restricted with the aid of historic instances. She seems at times too present day in her self-presentation, but in a movie that deliberately positions itself as a #MeToo allegory, that anachronism is a part of the point. Damon, his stolid face seamed by way of a deep conflict scar, also makes sense as a thuggish medieval knight. If Affleck and Driver at instances appear to be on mortgage from a specific, dopier movie, possibly one concerning Monty Python, they each have this type of cape-swooshing, mustache-twirling excellent time that it’s hard guilty them for going all in on their characters’ villainy. And speakme of mustaches, it’s been some time given that a movie has brought us such a wealth of bad historical hair, from Damon’s tiny-banged mullet to Affleck’s platinum-blond Corky St. Clair. Comer and Driver have better good fortune with their coiffures, serving us expensive (and ahistorically clean) tresses straight off the cover of a bodice ripper.

Scott’s present for staging violent historical spectacle, so memorably displayed in Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, is on complete show inside the bone-crunching and simply suspenseful installed battle that ends the film. Having no familiarity with the historical event The Last Duel revisits, I had no concept which of the two guys might prevail, however like Marguerite de Carrouges looking the duel from the stands along with her legs in shackles, I become painfully conscious that whoever emerged triumphant, the damage had already been accomplished.