“The Last Duel” Review: Jodie Comer’s Medieval Account Powerfully Resonates With the Present

Jodie Comer in “The Last Duel.” Photo Courtesy: 20th Century Studios

Rating: 8/10

The Last Duel caught me by surprise. The Ridley Scott-directed movie opens exclusively in theaters this Friday, October 15, and is based on real events. It’s set in 14th century France and tells the account of Marguerite de Carrouges, a noblewoman who was raped by one of her husband’s friends and who, against convention, decided not to remain silent about it.

Jodie Comer plays Marguerite and displays a side of her interpretative range she never gets to show in Killing Eve, that of a vulnerable woman who is commanded by men, dependent on them and abused by them. Matt Damon plays the husband, Jean de Carrouges, a brute with no people skills who’s seemingly only good on the battlefield. Scott takes his time at the battlefront — The Last Duel is two hours and 32 minutes long — and he shows the brutality, bloodiness and just plain grime of the Hundred Years’ War between France and England in a time of swords and armor.

Adam Driver is the friend and rapist, Jean Le Gris. He’s a cultured man who reads, speaks Latin and knows how to play the court’s networking games. He befriends Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck), the King’s cousin, and takes full advantage of all the political access and privileges that that entails. He denies Marguerite’s allegations.

The movie’s title refers to the trial by combat in which Jean de Carrouges and Le Gris took part. It was believed the divine decided who was telling the truth by sparing their life at the duel. When, in reality, it was a matter of which of the two men was the better warrior.

I made the mistake of judging this film by an initial trailer released back in July that elicited a lot of internet chatter about Damon and Affleck’s unflattering hairstyles. I failed to realize the ridiculous hairdos were purposeful and necessary. I also didn’t recognize how relevant The Last Duel was. Don’t make the same mistakes I did — this is a timely and powerful story about the entrenchment of violence against women. Be warned, though; The Last Duel is not easy to watch and can be intensely distressing.