Up to this point, Ridley Scott’s most exciting work of the year was the steady trickle of on-set photos from his Gucci drama with Lady Gaga, but that changes today. Though that film will hit US theaters in November, he’ll first reenter multiplexes come October with his medieval epic The Last Duel, the first trailer for which appeared online just this morning.
The period piece takes us back to the 14th century in France, where the feudal system of nobles, knights, and squires enforced a rigid social order. The honor code brings about tragedy when the gallant Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) accuses his liege Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of raping his wife (Jodie Comer) and demands restitution in the form of blood.
Egged on by the Count Pierre d’Alencon (a towheaded Ben Affleck, already spawning memes), Jean and Jacques continue raising the stakes and impugning the other’s reputation, as Jacques repeatedly insists he’s an innocent man. The he-said-she-said situation culminates in a mano-y-mano duel to the death, though we catch glimpses of wider-scale group battle as well.
For Scott completists, this will push a lot of familiar buttons, and not just because this film forms a rhyme with his first feature The Duellists. The swords-and-armor action from Kingdom of Heaven, the murder-as-spectacle of Gladiator, and the creative facial hair of Robin Hood all combine to form another greyish, hard-bitten vision of the past.
Comer makes an early impression as the one to watch in the film, caught in a conflict more complex than a vendetta between men; she must wrestle with the truth she cannot convince the public is true, a quandary faced by so many women in recent years as real-life sexual harassments have come to light. An awards push is all but assured, but first, some grassroots critical praise will have to kick things off.
The Last Duel comes to cinemas in the UK and US on 15 October.
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Published 21 Jul 2021
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