Who doesn't love a good sword fight movie? There have been some great ones (“Robin and Marian” comes to mind.) We love the armor, the up-close, man-to-man fighting with life and death in the balance. With Ridley Scott directing we can be confident of a good show.
The writing team of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won an Oscar for their script of “Good Will Hunting.” They both write and act in “The Last Duel,” Affleck in a supporting role, Damon as the male lead. Both the actor/writers and Scott also help as producers, which I always think of as a favorable sign. It gives the principals a stake in the outcome of the film.
Adam Driver, most famous for his roles in the “Star Wars” films, plays the squire. The French knight is played by Damon. Lovely, animated English actress Jodie Comer plays the knight's wife and the victim of a terrible crime. The knight and the squire fight to the death in the last instance of judicial combat in French history.
Liverpudlian Comer is not yet 30 years old. She has been playing on English TV since her early teens. We watched her performance as a mad assassin on “Killing Eve.” She hit the big screen recently in a big way in “Free Guy.”
Everything about this film rises to movie perfection. In an unusual but effective ploy, Scott shows the same set of facts from the perspective of the knight, the squire, and the wronged wife. This allows Comer to face the camera three times, repeating the same scene but with the magnificent subtleties of facial expression that change the meaning entirely. This not only is great acting on her part but also shows expressions that can only be relished to the full when the actress's face is 14 feet high. Damon should get an Oscar nod for this role. Driver is excellent and even Affleck excels, overachieves even.
Scott has several, if short, battle scenes that are as well-staged as any and the best sword fight filmed since “Rob Roy.”
“The Last Duel” should be nominated for best costumes. The clothing and especially the armor in the film are spot on authentic. Scott manages to create an atmosphere of pride, poverty, ignorance, violence and oppression that seems to me to reflect the historical reality of the period.
“The Last Duel” runs for a good long 2 hours 32 minutes. This film has an R rating for language, subject matter (rape) extreme violence, and nudity, so leave the kids with the sitter. This lush, extravagant film deserves a strong five out of a possible five sawblades.
Fun fact: Damon stared in “World War Z,” perhaps the grandest Zombie film of all time, and Driver played in the recent “The Dead Don't Die,” a zombie film that outgrossed the most recent Clint Eastwood film “Cry Macho.”