'The Last Duel' Review: Chronicle of an outrage

'The Last Duel' Review: Chronicle of an outrage
Image Credit: 20th Century Studios

Ridley Scott is one of those filmmakers who is difficult to rate. Exceptional and masterful in several cases, in others he has been the opposite and in others, simply a mere commissioned director. As it happens from time to time, the British director re-releases two works in a year - it already happened in 2017 and 2001-, before seeing his commitment to the black chronicle with 'House Of Gucci', Scott brings to the forefront a controversial historical judicial case that ended in a duel in medieval Paris, on December 29, 1386, with 'The Last Duel', a film presented out of competition at the 78th Venice Film Festival.

Although the film is inspired by the book 'The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France' by Eric Jager, it is, above all, a production based on real events. Due to the ambiguity of the case, Scott sets up a feature film that draws on a classic, 'Rashômon' by Akira Kurosawa, by narrating an event: the alleged rape of Marguerite de Carrouges, wife of the knight Jean de Carrouges, by the squire and also gentleman Jacques Le Gris.

And 'Rashômon' is quoted because Scott; who directs a script with which Ben Affleck and Matt Damon meet again as screenwriters and that they sign together with Nicole Holofcener, divides the film into three episodes and each one tells its truth. From this perspective, the filmmaker makes an interesting portrait of the meaning of the honor of masculinity in the Middle Ages with certain echoes that can be interpreted from the present.

The interesting thing is that, from this point, 'The last duel', despite having epic scenes that remind us that the film was signed by the director of 'Gladiator' or 'The kingdom of heaven', the curious thing is that it seems an It is a completely opposite bet, by focusing the main plot in his dialogues and in how he portrays the ambition of the knights, to demolish that romantic myth of loyalty towards their own values ​​that are had from the stories of this epic.
   
A look at female reality in the 14th century
Here there are no faithful warriors who seek to watch over their king or values, but men who voluntarily give themselves to the most virulent and bloody companies to win favors before the King in front of the nobles and also to be able to face contracted debts. We are the antithesis of the heroes of literature, theater, or cinema. And it is that Scott chooses to put the main focus on the victim, on Madame de Carrouges, in what is a harsh portrait of the complete absence of autonomy - and that includes bodily - of women in the 14th century, in the Late Age. Half.
   
And it is at that point where 'The Last Duel' moves away from the epic of historical gentlemen cinema to get closer to those female figures that the filmmaker was able to portray in titles such as 'Alien, the eighth passenger' or 'Thelma and Louise'. And here Jodie Comer emerges as the great protagonist opposite Matt Damon -recognizable as the surly and envious Carrouges- and Adam Driver -in his line of characters tormented with the libertine, Le Gris-. The 'Killing Eve' actress offers a powerful inner strength, symbolizing those women who did not want to shut up.
          
It is with Madame de Carrouges where the story shows the other side of the stories of knights, where the woman was not only trapped in an oppressive system and lacking empathy but when she took the courage to raise her voice, it could only be heard if it was endorsed by a male of the family. And even in this aspect where Scott collapses any assertive gesture of the men because even in this aspect, it is once again a fact that is denounced to defend his own honor and not to do justice.
   
And that is where Comer shines the most, with an interpretation far removed from sight in BBC America fiction or other recent titles such as 'Free Guy'. His act and his vision of what happened defies the conventional scheme of historical cinema, making 'The Last Duel' be Scott's most rounded feature film in several years, since 'Marte (The Martian)' had not managed to offer such a final result optimum. On the other hand, despite its innovative vision, it's a way of executing, as well as its theme, it places it as a contemporary response to the majestic epic cinema of the 90s, bringing the style of the feat of titles such as 'Dancing with wolves' or 'Braveheart', to the present and showing that this type of cinema still has a place today.
    
The Best: His careful design of production, costumes, the treatment of the colors of his photography. Above all, the one who takes the film to another level is Jodie Comer.
    
The Worst: That the American public has condemned it to failure is not fair for a proposal of this quality.

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