‘The Last Duel’ is good, but falls under radar

This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges, left, and Adam Driver as Jacques LeGris in a scene from "The Last Duel." (Patrick Redmond/20th Century Studios via AP)

By Graham Carpenter | Guest Contributor

Friday marked the release of the first movie Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote together since their movie “Good Will Hunting” was released in 1997, but despite the names attached to the film, it was only able to make $4.8 million during its opening weekend. “The Last Duel” is a long historical drama with a mature tone that fits just enough action and storytelling to make it worth the watch, as well as performances that create compelling characters.

Over many years, tensions rise as Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) continually loses favor with the royal court, but Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) becomes more favorable in the eyes of their lord (Ben Affleck). However, when Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer), accuses Le Gris of assaulting her, the two are forced to duel in order to confirm who is guilty.

With a rare storytelling device in movies, the film divides the main conflict into three separate chapters, each told from different character perspectives. This causes the audience to see the emotions and thoughts that each character experiences through their own eyes. The story is subtly different in each chapter, and as the movie progresses the eventual truth of the situation is revealed. The different perspectives is a very unusual tactic when it comes to film, but it serves the plot well as it gives insight into the story as a whole rather than the usual one-sided story seen in most other films.

Perhaps the strongest feature of the movie is the acting, with each chapter containing similar yet different performances from the three main actors. Comer stands out amongst the cast as Margueritte de Carrouges, giving a beautiful performance in which she accurately portrays a woman who is restricted by her husband and the world and who has no power of her own. Both Damon and Driver give great performances as well, with both becoming the heroes of their respective chapters, even if they are not truly good men. The characters are complex, and when one seems likable in a certain chapter they become just as easily unlikable in the next.

Sadly, the greatest enemy of the film is its lengthy runtime and its reliance on intermittent action sequences to keep attention on the story. While the plot of the movie is very interesting, the movie takes nearly two hours to reach the namesake duel between the men. The trailers for the film would have you believe that the majority of the movie focuses on the fight, but it is barely in the movie and is an immense letdown. However, if more time were spent on the duel it would mean the movie would either sacrifice good storytelling or pad its runtime to over three hours.

Despite the lengthy runtime and the poor box-office earnings, the movie is worth the watch. The compelling performances from the actors give the film life, and the unusual three-part story device provides a breath of fresh air from the multitude of cookie-cutter movie formulas that exist. Director Ridley Scott has once again created a fantastic film with a strong female lead that deals with heavy subjects well and does not portray only one side of the story. Fans of both Scott’s movies and historical dramas can enjoy this movie, and while it is certainly not the greatest movie to be released, don’t let its poor performance dissuade you from going to see it.