“King Charles VI declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.”

Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon
Staring: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Cromer, Ben Affleck
Release Date: October 15, 2021

The Last Duel takes place in medieval France in the late 14th century. Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) are men in the king’s service and they share a bond forged in blood while fighting for their king, King Charles VI (Alex Lawther). The two men, who are each stubborn in their own ways, become embroiled in a saga of distrust and disdain when Marguerite De Carrouges (Jodie Cromer) accuses Jacques of raping her. The accusation sends shockwaves through the kingdom and puts allegiances and egos on deadly tilt. By decree of the king and the wishes of Jean, the hammer of justice can only fall once the two men battle in an epic duel to the death.

Jacques is fighting for his honor and dignity. Jean openly states that he is fighting on behalf of his wife Marguerite, but his own ambitions makes such a claim false. Marguerite knows her unemotional husband too well, she knows that he is partaking and begging for this do-or-die fight in order to proof that he does not deserve to be taken lightly by the kingdom and by those ahead of him in station.

The Last Duel tells the this story from three points of view: Sir Jean de Carrouges, Jacques Le Gris and Marguerite de Carrouges. Each story differs in various aspects, and much like the actual history, we have no idea whose story is true. Even with the given bias in each story, there are certain traits for each of these characters that perpetuate across all three tales.

Jean is a man with a Napoleon complex always seeking approval. His gruff nature makes him unappealing to most, but his skills in combat are well respected among all. The esteem that Jean holds himself too is elevated to a godly level, so the slights that axe him down to size hurt even more.

Jacques is a highly educated charmer. His exploits with women, both married and not, are legendary and often encouraged by his friend Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck). Much of his success comes by befriending the right people, but his constant success in marching up the latter makes it hard for him to understand the meaning of “no.”

Marguerite is a women who does not enjoy being caged up, and she finds way to express herself even when her husband is being overbearing and overprotective. She wants to find resolution not through grievances and grudges, but more so by kinds words and approachable canter. Her happy and kind nature is her best attribute, but it also gives people without much social nuisance the wrong idea.

It is not a spoiler to say that we do not find out the truth of the story at the end of The Last Duel. What we do find are broken relationships, hardened characters and unfulfilled passion. The story pins former friends and lovers against one-another as self-serving ethos cloud the true purpose of what the moral result of this tale should be.

The Last Duel would be nothing without Jodie Cromer. Every man in this movie is a despicable human and in the end the audience is forced to root for Marguerite, who in her own right might be lying to cover up for her adultery if it did take place. It is a testament to Cromer’s performance that she pulls the audience in her direction no matter what story is told. Her character diverges the most between the three tales, but the youthful eyes are working their magic no matter how she adjusts her character.

Just being honest here, in the trust tree, I think that Jodie did commit adultery with Jacques, and guess what, I do not care. Good for her. Let her game the system. Let her take these men down to their base instincts and let them wallow in their own emotional booby traps. Jean is a man out for himself and himself alone. She man care for him as a human and as someone who tries hard to provide for her, but she knows that he is not everything she ever wanted. He wants an heir and property more than anything, and Marguerite knows that. Jacques is the jock of this medieval carnival and it is not wrong to say he is a hunk. However, he is a hunk whose intelligence is all surface and his emotional well is as shallower than any grave he dug in combat. Marguerite is trying to survive in this game any way she can, and Cromer is lapping the competition with her performance.

Cromer is on the verge of mega stardom. She is the undeniable best part of Killing Eve and was the best part of Free Guy (2021). She has the blend of drama and comedic chops that will do her well in Hollywood for a long time. If she plays her cards right, I think she can be an award-winning version of Karen Gillan. Cromer can become the next Emily Blunt. Am I really typing this? Am I really thinking this? Yes, I am.

The second best performance in The Last Duel is Ben Affleck as Pierre d’Alençon. This asshole sleezy politician is not a flashy part when simply written down, but Affleck owns it and creates something wholly unique. Among the three stories told, d’Alençon is the most similar in all three of the stories. There are few redeemable qualities for this lord of the land, but the slutty grin and coy manipulations of Affleck ensure you that you are rooting against his success the entire time.

It is obvious that I am a fan of The Last Duel, and anyone who knows me knows that I love Ridley Scott. He may be my favorite director, ever. The Last Duel ranks among the best movies he has made. According to my documentation I have seen 15 Ridley Scott movies and the only movies I have zero recollection of any positive things are Black Rain (1989) and Body Of Lies (2008). The one thing that is undeniable about Scott films are that the loves to identify an era and place. Whether it be science-fiction Alien (1979) claustrophobia are the massive scope of Gladiator (2000) and The Last Duel (2021); Scott commits to his vision, and that I love so much.

The Last Duel should content for multiple Academy Awards, and it is clearly one of my favorite of 2021.

STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)

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