Ridley Scott’s newest epic performs like an armour-clad reimagining of Rashomon crossed with a #MeToo-inflected remake of Straw Canines. Impressed by creator Eric Jager’s 2004 account of France’s final formally recognised judicial duel, during which God was trusted to select the righteous winner, it’s successfully a medieval rape-revenge drama informed in three chapters from three totally different views, all main as much as one blood-soaked battle. Intriguingly, screenwriting duties have been divided throughout the movie’s central characters, with co-stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (who gained an Oscar for his or her Good Will Searching script) dealing with the male variations of this story whereas Nicole Holofcener lends “my perspective as a feminine” to carry a “totally different voice” to the desk.
We open in Paris in 1386, with pictures of Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer) being ritually wearing black as her husband, Jean (Matt Damon), and his opponent, Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), are laced into chainmail and armour. From right here we spiral again to the Battle of Limoges, thrice revisiting occasions main as much as the titular duel, recounting “the reality in accordance with” every teller. First up is Jean, who bravely saves Jacques’s life solely to be betrayed when his erstwhile pal makes use of his affect with Rely Pierre d’Alençon (Affleck) to purloin Jean’s land and inheritance, and thence to “feloniously and carnally take my spouse”, for which Jean calls for duelling redress. Subsequent comes Jacques’s model, during which Jean peevishly sues for land to which he has no proper, and Marguerite, whose diminished dowry had aggrieved her dreary husband, provides solely “the customary protests” to his advances (“as a result of she is a girl”), which had been “not towards her will”.
Lastly – and most engagingly – now we have Marguerite’s account, an altogether extra eye-opening model during which Jean and Jacques deal with ladies as chattels, lowered by legislation and customized to the standing of property. Scenes of equine mounting are heavy-handedly juxtaposed with Jean’s fruitless makes an attempt to sire an inheritor (“I belief your ‘little dying’ was a memorable and productive one,” he declares when spent), whereas Jacques’s narcissistic visions of flirtatious glances are revealed to be mere diplomatic smiles. This time it’s the malignancy of a world during which solely males have energy that’s to the fore, presaging a showdown as absurd as it’s brutal, leaving Marguerite in peril of being burned alive for the crime of daring to talk out.
To deal with the tonal shifts of this story with out insensitive missteps requires nice subtlety – not Scott’s strongest swimsuit. Whereas Thelma and Louise introduced visible splendour to Callie Khouri’s Oscar-winning script about two ladies discovering a street of their very own within the wake of sexual assault, The Final Duel as an alternative will get slowed down within the mud and blood of its interval milieu – a symphony of arrows-in-the-face violence and pestilential climate. From firelit interiors to rural exteriors, all is shrouded in murk, with random flutterings of poultry. Alehouses ring to the clatter of tankards whereas Pythonesque minstrels lurk within the shadows. There’s even some softcore lesbian trysting happening within the background to maintain the Sport of Thrones followers glad.
A combined salad of accents is served up with some non-specific European garnish; at instances, Jacques seems to have dedicated a criminal offense punishable by having his vowels stretched upon a rack till useless. As for the haircuts, they’re a veritable battle of the bands, with Driver’s rock-star mane resembling that of an 80s goth, Affleck’s blond crop and goatee evoking a producer of Teutonic Eurodisco hits, and Damon saddled with a crime-against-nature mullet that screams mid-70s Midlands heavy steel.
Someplace in the midst of all this chaos are just a few astute observations about class, gender and justice. When Jacques is informed to “deny, deny, deny” as a result of the crowds don’t have any capability for nuance, it strikes a topical nerve. But regardless of a spirited efficiency from Comer and a formidable roster of supporting turns (together with a scene-stealing Harriet Walter as Jean’s withering mom, Nicole), The Final Duel tends to reflect its central battle’s makes an attempt to handle complicated points with the blunt instrument of rabble-rousing spectacle.