Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer
Did this movie bomb because the older audience it was intended for was hesitant to go to theaters during Covid? Or did it fail at the box office because the studio, 20th Century Fox, was freshly acquired by Disney and treated like an unwanted stepchild? Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter why The Last Duel failed upon initial release. What matters is that people judge the movie for the story that appears on the screen and not the stories in the press.
The Last Duel is a look at what leads to a 14th century duel-to-the-death between two men, one of whom is accused of raping the other’s wife. Really, it’s a story about two men because women didn’t matter a great deal and that’s the point of the movie. I’ll argue that it’s a feminist film because the best way to show someone as an equal member of the human race is by showcasing their unequal status in society. In movies today, women are shown kicking ass and taking names. Women don’t deserve equal rights to men because they can beat up Thanos. Women don’t deserve equal rights because of some fantasy that they are physically superior to men. Women deserve equal rights because when those rights are absent — when anyone’s rights are absent, it becomes obvious how easily humans are able to manufacture a self-serving hierarchy.
The timeline preceding the duel is told from each character’s perspective and we get to learn how differently people can view the same situation. Matt Damon plays Jean de Carrouges, a career soldier who demands what’s coming to him — and has a whoa-is-me attitude when he doesn’t get it. Adam Driver plays his adversary, one time good friend, Jacques Le Gris. Jodie Comer plays de Carrouge’s wife and the cause for the duel, Marguerite de Carrouges. Marguerite has little standing in 14th century France, but for us in the audience she screams loud and clear that she deserves to be more than just a cause for a duel. She’s not a “cause” for anybody else’s anything. She’s the star of her story and we will see her as such. While Marguerite was forced to live as a role player, her attitude is what drives progress.
It also didn’t hurt that the movie was beautifully shot with an incredible tempo at the hands of the great Ridley Scott.