The Last Duel Movie Review
The #MeToo movement goes medieval in Ridley Scott’s high budgeted The Last Duel, a swords-and-armor drama that essentially is a fancy episode of Law & Order: SVU. That’s not a bad thing.
Split into three chapters, each depicting a series of events preceding an alleged rape from the perspective of the three people involved—the accused rapist (Adam Driver), the accuser (Jodie Comer), and her husband (Matt Damon)—The Last Duel is a fascinating experiment in “he said, she said” dynamics disguised as a bloody medieval thriller. It doesn’t land the way some of Scott’s most revered films have, but it’s a worthy film undeserving of the “biggest bomb of 2021” title that has been bequeathed upon it due to its poor box office performance.
At first, Damon seems sorely miscast for a medieval epic—he is a great actor, but comes off as too “nice guy Matt Damon” to work given the time period and subject matter. But he grows on you, especially once you realize that the first third of the movie is presented through the eyes of his character. As the story progresses, we discover he isn’t the perfect lord he thinks he is.
Driver, meanwhile, brings the intensity you’d expect from the actor; he’s excellent throughout.
Comer is terrific as well, though her role isn’t as head-turning as the two male leads. Even still, she plays a pivotal part and does it well.
As you’d expect from Scott, The Last Duel looks terrific; he can make superb-looking films in his sleep. More questionable is the decision to make this film have the scope it has; it’s easy to imagine this being closer to a stage play, confined to the walls of castles (save for the actual duel) rather than depicting gruesome battles. The tangential stuff—like the action—seem unnecessary and even distracting.
The Last Duel’s major fault, and perhaps the reason the marketing struggled to convince audiences to spend money in theaters, is that it tries to be both a medieval epic and a dramatic, politics-filled episode of SVU. It isn’t a medieval epic, and never should have tried to be such a thing. If you go in knowing that, The Last Duel is worth fighting for.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.