Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck
The Last Duel—Ridley Scott’s medieval epic co-written by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener—is a film, above all else, about the foolishness of men. It’s a strange, long horror comedy detailing how women in the 14th century were at the mercy of dudes who were vain, petty, and cruel, only concerned with their own status even when someone’s life is at stake. For a two-and-half-hour movie centered around a rape and a violent battle, it’s awfully funny, but that humor only serves its point: It makes the men who think they are the heroes of this tale seem puny and vile, just as they are. Told in three chapters, each from a differing perspective, The Last Duel describes the incidents that led to a fight to the death between Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), the man who assaulted his wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer) The structure only serves to fuel Scott’s ultimate point not about the subjectivity of human experience, but the brutality of the circumstances. Anchored by great performance all around, it’s Affleck who steals the show as a louche, drunken count.
The Last Duel had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 10, 2021, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 15, 2021, by 20th Century Studios. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances of the cast and production values, and likened it to the Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon (1950). It was selected by the National Board of Review as one of the 10 best films of 2021. However, it bombed at the box office, grossing only $30.2 million against a production budget of $100 million.