Rob Reviews "The Last Duel"
As I sit here thinking about how to put my thoughts together on “The Last Duel,” I wonder if there are certain concepts and phrases I am beating into the ground. Granted, I haven’t gotten to review nearly the number of films this year and last that I have been able to previously, but by the same token a lot of the films that our show has gotten to review are falling into different patterns.
Ridley Scott returns to the big screen for the first time since 2017’s “All the Money in the World” to direct this based-on-true events tale of Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), a hard-working man who fights for his king and country of France in the late 14th century. He becomes friends with Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) on the battlefield, and as their paths grow apart with Carrouges settling down with the daughter of a wealthy landowner with a questionable past (Jodie Comer) and Le Gris becoming the squire of Lord Pierre d’Alencon (Ben Affleck) tensions rise and boil over after Carrouges’ wife accuses Le Gris of coming to their castle while she was alone and assaulting her. Carrouges, being the man of honor that he claims to be, demands that God sort it all out on the battlefield: one-on-one, to the death.
When I say that I felt every second of this two-and-a-half-hour film (and I am very hesitant to call it an epic for reasons I will explain in a moment), I can’t say that “The Last Duel” is a bad film by any stretch. Scott does what he does; shoot on a grand scale, using color in ways that had a group of us having a discussion of theme and tone afterwards as well as violence on a graphic and detailed level. With Damon and Affleck back together co-writing the script along with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” scribe Nicole Holofcener, there is a style here that brings me to something I have said more than once about a film: this would have been a lot better served as a four-part miniseries on something like HBO Max or Starz.
The reason this film runs as long as it does is because it is told three different ways: the way Carrouges saw it, the way Le Gris saw it, and the way Lady de Carrouges saw it as well culminating on the three stories coming together for the duel itself along with the fallout. Each story runs about forty minutes a piece, which is why I felt it so much. I understand the reasoning and the storytelling; I just felt that breaking this up would have made it more palatable. It’s shot beautifully and the acting was acceptable (no real French accents, but in pieces like this who really worries about that), it’s just LONG for how it plays out.
While I do think it is worth the time to see this on a big screen, I also think it is worth it if you have a decent home theater system that can give the right ambiance and a large enough screen to see how well the cinematography works that is alright too. Again, I am not saying this is a bad film by any means; it just may not have to have been a theatrical release.