Early reviews for Ridley Scott's medieval epic The Last Duel have begun to pour in from The Venice Film Festival, with most being mixed-to-positive, calling it cumbersome, claustrophobic, riveting, timely, intelligent and old-fashioned. Written by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Nicole Holofcener, The Last Duel is a 14th-Century tale, which is based on real events, centers on two knights who are set to duel over the claims that one of them raped the other's wife. The Last Duel is set to be released in theaters on October 15th, 2021.
The film stars Damon and Affleck, as well as Adam Driver and Jodie Comer, all of whom are immersed in the mud-and-rain-soaked world of Ridley Scott's lens. Scott is no stranger to period epics, having directed the Oscar-winning Gladiator, as well as a number of similarly-themed tales, such as Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and The Duelists. It's the first film written by Damon and Affleck since 1997's Good Will Hunting, which won them both an Oscar for their efforts. Damon and Affleck have cited the topic of the film make it a feminist film.
Reviews for The Last Duel have begun pouring in from Venice, and thus far, they sound like a mixed bag of positive and negative, as well as some in-between takes. Most reviews praise the talent involved, particularly Jodie Comer's performance, while others note the inconsistent accents and long runtime. Scott's attention to detail and macro-focused cinematography seem to be well in place here, which is always the expectation for his refined visual style. The timely #metoo in the 14th Century focus sounds like one of the bigger topics that have divided the reception, which was likely always going to be the case, given the intensity of the subject. Below are some select quotes from Venice critics:
Owen Gleiberman, Variety:
Ryan Leston, IGN:
Rafaela Sales Ross, Little White Lies
Jessica Kiang, The Playlist
Ben Croll, Indiewire
Jonathan Romney, The Guardian
Other notable responses to the film have been focused on the three-part story told in three different perspectives, which seems to be hit or miss for critics. The first part of the story is told from Damon's Jean de Carrouges, the second from Driver's Jacques Le Gris and the third from Comer's Marguerite de Thibouville (for which writer Nicole Holofcener mostly contributed to). The difficulty in pulling off such a narrative is the biggest takeaway, as some critics felt it worked, while others didn't.
Fans of Ridley Scott will recognize this type of criticism, as it's typical for his non-Gladiator historical epics. In most cases, the reception has been lukewarm overall, with some vehemently disliking or passionately loving these types of films from the prolific director. While Scott dips in and out of the genre over the years to counter with more commercial works, such as The Martian or Alien: Covenant, his historical films have always been more divisive when they don't start with the word Gladiator, and The Last Duel sounds well within that wheelhouse. With that said, Scott will have another historical film for audiences to see after The Last Duel, as he reunites with Driver for House of Gucci, which releases in November. Ultimately, fans of Ridley Scott are about to be well fed.
20th Century Studios has revealed the first trailer for The Last Duel. This seems like an instant awards season contender on paper. It is directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator), reunites Good Will Hunting duo Ben Affleck and Matt Damon together on screen together for the first time in years. On top of that, it features an A-list cast that also includes Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, BlacKkKlansman). Not to mention it's a 14th century period piece, and Scott has had luck digging into the past in his previous works.
The trailer opens with some ominous voiceover before cutting to some action shots. We then get into some serious medieval stuff, jousting knights and things of that nature, before we get to the heart of the matter. An accusation of a horrible crime is put forth, which sets Matt Damon and Adam Driver on a course to duel to the death.
The Last Duel is set amid the Hundred Years War. Based on real events, the movie unravels long-held assumptions about France's last sanctioned duel between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, two friends who became bitter rivals. Carrouges is a respected knight known for his bravery and skill on the battlefield. Le Gris, meanwhile, is a Norman squire whose intelligence and eloquence make him one of the most admired nobles in the court. When Carrouges' wife is brutally assaulted by Le Gris, which he denies doing, she refuses to stay silent. After she steps forward to face her alleged attacker, a grueling duel to the death is set that places the fate of all three in God's hands.
Matt Damon stars as Jean de Carrouges, Adam Driver is Jacques Le Gris, with Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d'Alençon. The cast also includes Jodie Comer (Killing Eve, Free Guy) as Marguerite de Carrouges. The screenplay was penned by Nicole Holofcener (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), who worked alongside Affleck and Damon. It is based on the book by Eric Jager. Ridley Scott produces with Kevin J. Walsh, Jennifer Fox, Nicole Holofcener, Damon and Affleck. Kevin Halloran, Drew Vinton, Madison Ainley serve as executive producers. Scott had this to say about it.
While it's still early, this Ridley Scott movie is filled to the bring with Oscar favorites. Undoubtedly Disney, who ultimately controls the project since the merger with Fox took place, will put resources behind it to get some awards-season love later this year. Assuming critics respond kindly. We should hear some word on that front soon enough though. The Last Duel is set to hit theaters on October 15 from 20th Century Studios. Be sure to check out the trailer for yourself.