The Last Duel
The Last Duel is a 2021 historical action drama film directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon, based on the 2004 book The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager. Set in medieval France, the film stars Damon as Jean de Carrouges, a knight who challenges his former friend, squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) to a judicial duel after Jean's wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer), accuses Jacques of raping her. The events leading up to the duel are divided into three distinct chapters, reflecting the contradictory perspectives of the three main characters. Affleck also stars in a supporting role as Count Pierre d'Alençon.
The Last Duel
Upon Jean's return, Marguerite tells him what happened; after questioning whether she is telling the truth, Jean becomes convinced that Jacques raped Marguerite to insult him specifically. Jean insists that Marguerite immediately have sex with him so that Jacques will not be "the last man that knew her."
Pierre informs Jacques that Jean is accusing him of raping Marguerite, which he denies. Despite the count's attempt to exert his authority, Jean appeals his case directly to King Charles and requests a duel to the death. Jacques accepts, having decided not to seek a favorable forum of a Catholic ecclesiastical court with clerical judges. Marguerite's friends abandon her, believing her to be lying to cover up an affair, while Jean's mother insists Marguerite drop her accusations and accept any consequences.
At Jacques' trial six months later, a now-pregnant Marguerite remains resolute that she is telling the truth, while the court implies that Jacques is the father of her child. Charles grants Jean's request for a duel to the death to determine the case. Marguerite is also informed that she will be burned alive for perjury if her husband loses. Marguerite confronts Jean for not telling her she would be burned alive if he fails. Marguerite gives birth to her son not long before the duel takes place.
The duel begins with Jean and Jacques jousting until both men lose their mounts and fight hand-to-hand. Following a lengthy struggle, Jean is stabbed in the groin but eventually manages to pin down Jacques. He demands that Jacques confess or face damnation, but Jacques claims his innocence. Jean then kills him. Jean basks in the glory of his victory while Marguerite follows quietly behind. Meanwhile, Jacques' body is stripped, and hung upside down publicly.
In the Middle Ages, the business of the nobility was war, plain and simple. Both Jean and Jacques fight for their king and liege lord, and the battles can be extremely wince-worthy. The duel that the two fight is pretty graphic, too.
Prestige period filmmaking rarely sizzles like "The Last Duel." Ridley Scott, master of high-budget history, is mercifully in "Gladiator" form rather than "Kingdom of Heaven" with his latest medieval movie. All is as it should be here: stunning swordfights, dazzling duels, nimble narrativization, and psychologically piercing performances from the trio of leads.
The buildup gives the title fight higher emotional stakes, turning it into a riveting spectacle rife with meaning. But the duel itself is less interesting than what happens before, with the script and the direction laying the groundwork in detail, allowing the audience to enter this world through the eyes of its characters, while also making sure not to excuse their behavior. The Last Duel might seem like a spectacle, teasing a gruesome duel to the death, but it's more of an intriguing character study. Jodie Comer is a standout, giving a deeply nuanced performance. She gets time to shine as the purveyor of truth in her chapter, which is the final one of the film, an example of the strength and fortitude it takes to tell it like it is despite the ugly and brutal backlash from the public.
Ridley Scott loves his historical dramas: from Gladiator to Kingdom of Heaven, to even his stony faced Robin Hood, the director may be the last filmmaker still interested in making classic Hollywood epics based at least on partially real-life ancient events or figures. What perhaps differentiates his latest such film, The Last Duel, from some of those others mentioned above is that this time, the story is directly relevant to today, even if it takes a while for Scott to get to the point.
In THE LAST DUEL, it's the year 1386, and Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is about to fight a duel with Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver). In flashback, viewers see what led up to the duel from three points of view. First, we see through the eyes of de Carrouges, who marries Marguerite (Jodie Comer) but is dismayed to learn that a valuable piece of land that was meant to be her dowry has been given to Le Gris. The two men attempt to bury the hatchet at a party, but Le Gris becomes smitten with Marguerite. She later tells her husband that Le Gris raped her. In Le Gris' chapter, he becomes the favorite squire of Count Pierre d'Alençon (Ben Affleck) and commits his vile act. Marguerite's story reveals more about the barbarism in the beliefs and laws of the time. Subsequently, the ultimate price of the duel may be dearer than anyone could have anticipated.
The film, which stars Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Ben Affleck, follows a married woman, Marguerite (Jodie Comer), as she accuses a knight, Jacques LeGris (Adam Driver), of raping her. LeGris denies the accusations. In response, LeGris and his friend, Marguerite's husband Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), fight a duel to the death in 14th century France.
"Though her lines are minimal until the last leg of the film, Comer's brilliant at simply acting with her eyes, something the actress mastered in her expressiveness on the spy thriller series, 'Killing Eve,'" the review read.
The film is based on The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France, a non-fiction book by medieval literature specialist Eric Yager that recounts the story of how the case led to the last legally sanctioned duel in France's history.
Knowing he wouldn't find a fair criminal trial, Carrouges appealed to King Charles VI himself for a Game of Thrones-esque trial by combat. As the preliminary judges couldn't reach a verdict, the King ultimately granted the request for a duel - with Carrouges throwing down a gauntlet at the Parliament of Paris as per tradition, which Le Gris picked up. The duel would be to the death, with the survivor deemed innocent in the eyes of God - with Marguerite to be burnt at the stake for perjury if Carrouges lost.
Once a common practice, duels were rare in France by the fourteenth century, thus drawing in a crowd of hundreds to an official Paris arena as King Charles VI had made the event a part of his series of parties and celebrations. Marguerite had given birth to a son in the months leading up to the duel, which took place on 29th December 1386.
Carrouges benefitted greatly from winning the duel - as well as surviving of course, the knight received a cash prize and was awarded the role of chevalier d'honneur and bodyguard at the royal household at Paris. He would go on to have two more children with Marguerite and died at the Battle of Nicopolis aged 66 years old. Sadly little else has been recorded about Marguerite's life, either before or after the famous duel.
While Carrouges v Le Gris was the last trial by combat to be officially sanctioned by the French King and the Parliament of Paris, it was far from the last duel to take place in France. While uncommon - and certainly not used for judicial verdicts - the practice continued unofficially for centuries afterwards, carrying on despite King Louis VIII introducing an official edict against duels in 1626.
In fact, the actual last duel in France took place as recently as 1967, when two politicians challenged each other to a sword fight after exchanging insults in parliament. However, it was slightly less dramatic than the 1386 duel - both participants escaped relatively uninjured.
In his new book, The Murderer of Warren Street, Professor Marc Mulholland, a professor of modern history at St Catherine's College, Oxford, reveals the true story of the notorious 19th-century revolutionary Emmanuel Barthélemy. This article, first published in the Irish Times, focuses on the last fatal duel held in England...
At the Windsor Assizes, the lawyers defending Barthélemy and the others seized upon this legal chicanery. If soldiers could be released on bail as men of good reputation, they asked, why not these honourable duellists? It was an embarrassing moment for British justice, and a special appeal court had to be convened to adjudicate the point of law.
Unsurprisingly, the defence motion was denied, but in so doing the judges had to state with unprecedented firmness that duelling, in fact, was not a crime to be mitigated by honour. It could no longer be winked at as a suitable affair for gentlemen. An important principle had been established. This, as it turned out, would be the last fatal duel ever to be fought on these islands.
In addition to touting Scott behind the camera, "The Last Duel" sees Ben Affleck and Matt Damon penning a screenplay together for the first time since winning the Academy Award for 1997's "Good Will Hunting." They're joined by Nicole Holofcener, an award winner herself, most recently for 2018's "Can You Ever Forgive Me?". The trio's script is based on Eric Jager's 2004 book about the last recorded Trial By Combat duel which happened in medieval France on Dec. 29, 1386.
Lightly based on the sketchy historical account, the film opens in 1386 Paris where two solemn-looking combatants, Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), prepare for a duel to the death. Heavy chain mail is draped over their shoulders. Suits of armor are strapped on piece by piece. Both men look intense and focused; doing their best to hide their apprehension. The two leave their quarters and mount their horses, riding into the center of a small arena where France's King Charles VI (Alex Lawther) presides. 041b061a72