He’s had his ups and downs, but Ridley Scott remains one of the best atmospheric directors working today. The first of Scott’s two films in 2021 (the other being House of Gucci) The Last Duel proves the 83-year-old filmmaker still has it. The movie is a very modern version of a historical drama — it’s a true story, but one that says a lot more about today’s society than you would expect from something set in the 14th century.
Most notably, The Last Duel seemingly comes to the screen as an indirect result of the #MeToo movement. Dealing with such a precarious subject is, in itself, a very difficult task as far as the balance between sending a message and not being overly-preachy goes. For the most part, the film does a very good job balancing these two; it’s blunt when it needs to be blunt, yet still keeps hold of a lot of subtlety and never feels too propagandist.
As great as the bulk of the movie is, it’s the ending that really stuck with me. Not only does it reiterate the common theme of the falsities of chivalry, but also provides commentary on the way the general public views the tragedies of others. The majority of those attending the duel don’t care what the devastating results of the outcome will be for the people directly involved, and rather, gain entertainment from the pain being felt by those same people. In my interpretation, this is a way of the writers literalizing how society is drawn to shocking events as if they were watching a game.
Scott’s beautiful cinematography and tone-setting makes The Last Duel a very mesmerizing film to see in theaters. Beautifully complimenting this mezmorization are some really great performances; Adam Driver, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck are all really good, but it’s Jodie Comer that completely steals the show. Her performance was heartbreaking and enticing all at once, and very possibly worthy of an Oscar-nomination.
Overall rating: 8/10