The Last Duel

The Last Duel ★★★★

The opening of The Last Duel harkens back to the first scene of one of my favorite movies of all time, Gladiator. We see two opposing armies face off on a dreary battlefield as a decapitated head signals the beginning of the end.

Other than the fact that both movies are about a “protagonist” seeking revenge and redemption for a despicable act, the character and morale compasses of the male "heroes" couldn’t be more different.

Ultimately, it's about three different perspectives of the same events. More importantly, it's three points of view of the depiction of rape, a crime as heinous as murder, and a topic that modern filmmakers continue to try and fail to handle deftly (Last Night in Soho being the most recent example of a terrible portrayal). I've said this before and I'll say it again: as a Gen X male, I am not qualified to properly analyze or discuss this subject in detail.

But luckily there are others on this site that can effectively take this difficult topic head-on. I highly recommend that you stop reading this and head over to Harlequinade's fantastic review of The Last Duel. She has put into writing something that is so powerful, it puts mainstream reviewers from the most popular publications to shame. Everything that follows from my keyboard is superficial dribble in comparison.

Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Judie Comer and Ben Affleck all put in excellent performances, but the standout by far is Comer. The only reason I kept watching Killing Eve as continued to spiral into mediocrity was for Judie Comer’s quirky and charismatic assassin. She was also one of the best things about Free Guy. I think I could watch her painting a wall just to see how she subtly conveys emotion – the slight uplift of the corner of her mouth as she expresses amusement. But she displays a full range of emotions here, making you feel like more than a passive observer to the heinous act that is inflected upon her.

The actual scene of the "last duel" is as brutal and visceral as it should be. And I have to admire Ridley Scott for his career stamina. At 84, he doesn't shy away from a difficult subject matter, and while everybody has been sheltering-at-home for the last 1.5 years, he’ released two award-season contenders. He apparently took Dylan Thomas's poem to heart:

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
(x)

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