In director Ridley Scott’s latest period epic, “The Last Duel,” as the title suggests, does not disappoint, but the long buildup to it does disappoint to some extent. This fact-based adaptation of Eric Jager’s book is muddy, bloody, and grim, but too drawn out in filtering 14th-century feudal norms through a modern prism. It’s a “Rashomon”-like tale that tells its story from different perspectives.
In addition to Scott, whose most pertinent credentials for these purposes include “Gladiator” (successfully) and “Kingdom of Heaven” (considerably less so), the film was written and produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
In an intriguing division of labor, the old colleagues collaborated on the script with independent writer-director Nicole Holormer, who worked on the part and said it from the perspective of a woman.
Along with Scott’s most relevant credentials for such purposes, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote and produced “Gladiator” (successfully) and “Kingdom of Heaven” (much less so).
That would be one of three distinct chapters in a film that runs more than two hours and twelve minutes, leading up to the last sanctioned duel in France in 1386.
The competition pitted a knight, Jean de Carrouges (Damon), against Jacques Le Gris (the ever-present Adam Driver), who was seeking justice after Carrouges’ wife Marguerite (“Killing Eve’s”) accused her husband’s one-time comrade in arms of raping her.
“I want him to answer for what he has done,” Marguerite says when prodded as to whether she wishes to proceed with a charge that could lead to bloodshed, adding — in a line that echoes through the centuries into the #MeToo era — “I cannot be silent.”
What happened, given the conflicting accounts? The obvious “Rashomon” parallels are explained by “The Last Duel,” which dices that into parts representing “the truth” in the eyes of Carrouges, Le Gris, and Marguerite, which explains the subtle “Rashomon” parallels.