Paulie’s Perspective: The Last Duel (2021) Review

Dir: Ridley Scott

Writers: Nicole Holofcener; Ben Affleck; Matt Damon; Eric Jager (book)

Starring: Matt Damon; Ben Affleck; Adam Driver; Jodie Comer

The real travesty about this film were the trailers, marketing and commercials. They told us nothing about this film. I think they showed Adam Driver and Matt Damon and that was about it. 

Every time I saw a commercial for this I was so upset that they revealed nothing. Still to this day, I have no idea why they just simply made us aware of this film and nothing else. No storyline, no plot, no promises of comedy or drama or even that it was a true story based upon a historical book. Nothing was revealed about this movie. 

This story was the pride of France for centuries. It really happened, it was the real deal, and it the story was told from generation to generation until a book was finally written about this duel. This duel was a very big deal, and now it’s a Hollywood movie, but Hollywood wouldn’t tell us what this film was about, at all! 

Distribution in USA was by 20th Century Studios, Disney had the distribution deals for just about every other country. So maybe the two couldn’t decide on how to market it? The story is of an adult nature after all, and maybe Disney didn’t want that black eye? 

Production companies involved were 20th Century, Pearl Street, Scott Free and TSG – so maybe they all could not come together on an agreement either. Whatever the case, it seemed very strange to have Oscar winning writers writing the script, and a legendary director like Ridley Scott and no major push with a major marketing plan. So i saw the commercials and trailers for this film and was still absolutely perplexed by it. 

THE LAST DUEL, Matt Damon, 2021. © 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection

Well despite the major blunder by all the major players involved, I finally got to see this Last Duel movie. Written by Affleck, Damon and Nicole based upon a book and French lore, this film is based on true accounts in French history. 

Since the trailers told us nothing – I had to look into this myself purely out of curiosity, asking myself, why is this film shrouded in mystery? Is it horrible? Are they ashamed of it? 

It seems the two main characters truly did exist in France during the 1300’s, right before the Crusades began. Matt Damon plays Sir Jean de Carrouges, and Adam Driver plays Jacques Le Gris. Two strong well known knights who were friends yet ever at odds with one another. 

Jean marries Marguerite, and Jacques, being a tall, brazen, lady’s man, falls for her and deems to conquer her, as he had done with many other ladies in his court.  Jean admits to forcing his way into her castle and making love to her. Jean was away at the time so could not defend his loved one nor could he ever know what really happened. 

Marguerite declares rape – and the two knights have a duel to the death. It is called The Last Duel because it was one of the last judicial duels ever permitted by Parlement of Paris and it was a biggie. The two knights were known throughout the land and the King even rearranged his schedule so he could attend. That is the history upon which this movie is based. Why Hollywood hid this from marketing and trailers is beyond me. Maybe it’s not exciting enough? Maybe too French? The film is certainly not an embarrassment. Ridley Scott sometimes misses the mark, but not this time. The film is made with a steady hand and a solid pace. Nothing spectacular, but nothing dreadful either. 

The film unfolds in 3 chapters, which is an interesting way to go. Chapter One is told by Sir Jean de Carrouges’s point of view. Chapter Two is told by Jacques Le Gris’s point of view, and Chapter 3 is told through the eyes of Marguerite, which the film claims as “the truth”. So I guess the book believes her story over the other two knights.

So the story is told 3 times, kind of like Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow, where the same story gets told time and time again. This time it’s about rape and it kind of really is not for the faint of heart. 

The action scenes are magnificent, and Ridley Scott really shines in them, but the rest of it is just kind of is. The Last Duel is about a real duel that literally gripped all of France and somehow Ridley, Damon and Affleck just can not make it interesting. Instead of a great film told the traditional way, they did a very ho hum movie three times.

Damon was excited to look ugly, Affleck was excited to go blonde, Driver was happy to be amongst legends, and Ridley probably needed to pay off his third house. When I watch this movie, that’s what I see. I did not get excited, or laugh, or even giggle. The boys wrote another movie together, this time without the comedic input of Robin Williams and it is joyless and soulless. It just seemed like another day at work, and they were all bidding time until they their real projects started.

No doubt these guys know what they are doing – but this time, they might have gotten involved for the wrong reasons, because this great story that gripped all of France for centuries could not even grip me for 10 minutes.

History created an amazing story, France eventually made a great book out of it and Hollywood just slammed it shut.