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The Last Duel review – Affleck, Damon and Driver deliver damp mullets in the fog | Venice film festival 2021

Duelling obtained Ridley Scott into cinema again in 1977 together with his much-admired debut The Duellists, however that was a brisk affair of rapiers at daybreak. Medieval jousting is prone to be extra cumbersome and clanking, and so it’s in The Last Duel. Scott is revered as considered one of cinema’s most versatile mainstreamers however, barring Gladiator, his historic epics have tended to not win a lot adoration – one thing that’s unlikely to vary with this account of a real-life 14th-century case of rape and rivalry.

The feud is between nobles Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), who fall out after the latter wins the favour of Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck), with De Carrouges dropping his destined captaincy and a desired piece of land, a part of his promised dowry in his marriage to Marguerite de Thibouville (Jodie Comer). The film begins in 1386, with the males starting armoured fight in entrance of King Charles VI, then jumps again to hint the story as much as the level when Marguerite tells her husband that Le Gris has raped her.

The plot is advised in three elements, every recounting the occasions from the viewpoint of a specific character – Jean, Jacques and Marguerite – and every scripted by considered one of three writers in flip. They are Damon, Affleck and, most intriguingly, Nicole Holofcener, greatest often known as the US indie auteur behind crisp female-centred comedies similar to Enough Said and Lovely and Amazing. The third chapter, beneath Holofcener’s cost, is most attention-grabbing in opening up Marguerite’s viewpoint and overturning the feudal male perspective of the earlier instalments. Holofcener’s part additionally supplies the wryest line – after a colorless bout of practical marital intercourse, Jean politely enquires: “I belief your ‘little demise’ was a memorable and a productive one.”

Matt Damon, mullet and Jodie Comer in The Last Duel.
Matt Damon, mullet and Jodie Comer in The Last Duel. Photograph: PR Company Handout

However, by the time the film will get spherical to exhibiting its hand as an episode of Medieval #MeToo, it has numbed us with a lot flash and fustian that the coronary heart of the story has nearly been drowned. Marguerite’s story might have made an enchanting, considerably Shavian drama if solely the grandiose spectacle (and the 152-minute operating time) had been stripped again. As it’s, you shortly tire of the mud, steel and completely medieval climate: if it’s not snowing, all the pieces’s steeped in mist. And it takes a substantial leap of religion to recover from Damon’s mullet and bogbrush beard, much less 14th-century knight than 1990s nu-metal bro.

Damon is solidly cantankerous as Jean; Driver does a Byronic, cape-swirling act that implies he is perhaps utilizing his function as a dry run for a stage Richard III; Comer, although she holds the consideration, provides a efficiency just a little too restrained to totally animate a thinly conceived function. Affleck, although, has enjoyable, uttering a few of the sillier strains (“Come in, take your pants off”) as a platinum-haired lord who runs his chateau like the Playboy Mansion. Otherwise, my liege, neither memorable nor productive.

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