The Last Duel (2021)


Introduction

The Last Duel is a 2021 epic historical 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 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 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 chapters, reflecting the perspectives of the three main characters. Affleck also stars in a supporting role as Count Pierre d’Alençon.

Outline

Chapter One

After serving in the Caroline War, Jean de Carrouges and his friend, squire Jacques Le Gris swear fealty to Count Pierre d’Alençon, who has been named Jean’s overlord by his cousin, King Charles VI. Jacques later informs Jean that Pierre has ordered his new vassals to pay war levies, agreeing to ask for leniency on Jean’s behalf when de Carrouges explains he lacks the funds.

To restore his finances, Jean marries Marguerite de Thibouville, receiving a large dowry and the rights to many valuable estates. Pierre, however, has already gifted one piece of land to Jacques. When Jean sues for the land to be given to him, King Charles dismisses the suit. Pierre retaliates by appointing Jacques to the captaincy of a fort that Jean’s family had held for generations.

A military campaign in Scotland leaves Jean knighted for bravery but bankrupt. When he comes home from a visit to Paris, Marguerite tells him that Jacques raped her while she was home alone. Knowing that Pierre protects Jacques, Jean resolves to challenge him to a duel to the death, a request which Charles VI grants.

Chapter Two

Jacques wins Pierre’s trust by using his knowledge of mathematics to organise the count’s finances, earning him a position at court. Upon meeting Marguerite, Jacques falls in love with her and becomes convinced that she loves him after she shows him kindness.

While Jean is away, his mother takes the servants to help her with errands, leaving Marguerite alone. Jacques has his servant knock on the door, claiming his horse has thrown a shoe. She allows the man in, but he is followed quickly by Jacques, who sincerely declares his love for Marguerite. She insists she is married and orders them to leave. Instead, Jacques chases Marguerite up to her bedchamber and has rough sex with her, which he believes to be consensual. Before leaving, he advises her not to tell her husband.

Sometime later, Pierre informs Jacques that Jean is accusing him of raping Marguerite. 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 Jean’s challenge.

Chapter Three (“The Truth”)

Marguerite and Jean’s marriage becomes strained by her failure to become pregnant. After meeting Jacques, Marguerite informs her friends she showed him kindness only to try and win court favour. When Jean leaves for Scotland, he orders her not to leave the castle or let anyone inside.

Jean’s mother takes all the servants with her on an errand despite Jean’s order. Jacques shows up with a servant who tricks Marguerite into letting them enter. Jacques haughtily declares his love for Marguerite; He forces his way into their bedroom where he violently rapes Marguerite. When Marguerite’s husband returns, she tells him what happened. Jean’s mother later insists Marguerite drop her accusations (and abide any consequences), so her son might be spared court’s judgement.

At Jacques’ trial, a now-pregnant Marguerite remains resolute that she is telling the truth. Charles VI grants Jean’s request for a duel to the death. Marguerite confronts Jean for not telling her she would be burned alive if he failed. Marguerite gives birth to her son days before the duel is set to take place.

The duel begins with Jean and Jacques jousting until both men lose their mounts and fight hand-to-hand. Jean is stabbed but eventually manages to pin down Jacques. He demands that Jacques confess or face damnation, but Jacques claims his innocence; Jean kills him. Jean basks in the glory of his victory while Marguerite follows quietly behind.

A textual epilogue reveals that Jean died fighting in the Crusades a few years later while Marguerite continued managing his estate and lived in peace for the remaining thirty years of her life, never marrying again.

Cast

  • Matt Damon as Sir Jean de Carrouges.
  • Adam Driver as Jacques Le Gris.
  • Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges.
  • Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d’Alençon.
  • Harriet Walter as Nicole de Buchard.
  • Alex Lawther as King Charles VI.
  • Serena Kennedy as Queen Isabeau.
  • Marton Csokas as Crespin.
  • Željko Ivanek as Le Coq.
  • Tallulah Haddon as Marie.
  • Bryony Hannah as Alice.
  • Nathaniel Parker as Sir Robert de Thibouville.
  • Sam Hazeldine as Thomin du Bois.
  • Michael McElhatton as Bernard Latour.
  • Oliver Cotton as Jean de Carrouges III.
  • Clive Russell as King’s Uncle.
  • Adam Nagaitis as Adam Louvel.
  • Bosco Hogan as Priest.
  • Clare Dunne as Ceila.
  • Caoimhe O’Malley as Elizabeth.
  • Md. Tayeen Khan as Jack Smith.

Production

The project was initially announced in July 2015, with Francis Lawrence planning to direct the film, and Shaun Grant writing the screenplay. No further development was announced, and the film rights lapsed. In July 2019, Deadline Hollywood announced that Ridley Scott was planning to direct the film with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon set to star, as well as write the screenplay with Nicole Holofcener. With Walt Disney Studios holding the rights to the film as a result of the Disney-Fox merger, it was unknown if the company would produce the film owing to its subject matter; however, Deadline Hollywood added that “every studio in town was waiting in the wings” should Disney sell the rights. In September, Jodie Comer entered negotiations to join the cast and was confirmed the following month, with Adam Driver entering negotiations to join the film after Affleck opted to play a different supporting role. Driver was confirmed in November, with Disney stating it would distribute the film by setting a release date. Harriet Walter was added to the cast in February 2020.

Filming began on 14 February 2020 in Dordogne, France and continued until 12 March 2020 in the medieval castle of Berzé-le-Châtel (near Mâcon), Burgundy, France (with a film crew of 300 people including 100 extras). Filming was to have taken place in Ireland, using locations at Bective Abbey, County Meath and Cahir Castle, County Tipperary and various locations across Dublin and County Wicklow from 23 March 2020 to 30 March 2020. On 13 March 2020, Disney announced that the studio had to delay the shoot indefinitely amid concerns for the cast and crew in light of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as travel restrictions in Europe. Filming resumed in late September 2020 and production concluded in Ireland on 14 October 2020.

Release

The Last Duel was originally scheduled to begin a limited theatrical release on December 25, 2020, before going wide on 08 January 2021. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the release date was delayed to 15 October 2021. It had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 10 September 2021. The film will play exclusively in theatres for 45 days before heading to digital platforms.

Box Office

As of 01 December 2021, The Last Duel has grossed $10.9 million in the United States and Canada and $19 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $29.8 million.

In the United States and Canada, The Last Duel was initially projected to gross around $10 million from 3,065 theatres in its opening weekend. After making $1.8 million on its first day, including $350,000 from Thursday night previews, estimates were lowered to $5 million. It ended up debuting to $4.8 million, finishing fifth at the box office and marking the worst opening of Scott’s career.

Home Media

The film was released on digital platforms and premium video-on-demand on 30 November 2021 and on Blu-ray, DVD and Ultra HD Blu-ray on 14 December 2021 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

Trivia

  • An adaptation of Jager’s book was first announced in 2015, though it was not officially greenlit until July 2019.
    • Affleck and Damon were confirmed as stars and co-writers that month, with Comer and Driver joining the cast later that year.
  • Filming took place in France and Ireland from February to October 2020, with a hiatus of several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Last Duel had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on 10 September 2021, and was theatrically released in the United States on 15 October 2021, by 20th Century Studios.
  • The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances of the cast and production values, and likened it to the Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon (1950).
  • However, it bombed at the box office, grossing just $29 million against a production budget of $100 million.
  • Matt Damon cannot grow facial hair, so the makeup department had to try out 20 different beards to apply to his face.
    • He reportedly got a skin rash underneath the stuck-on beard, which was so irritating that he had to be treated with ice packs after every scene while shooting the movie.
  • The film gets its title from the fact that the duel between LeGris and Carrouges was the last trial by combat in France.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Ridley Scott.
  • Producer(s):
    • Ben Affleck … producer (produced by) (p.g.a.).
    • Madison Ainley … executive producer.
    • Matt Damon … producer (produced by) (p.g.a.).
    • Aidan Elliott … co-producer.
    • James Flynn … producer: Metropolitan Films.
    • Jennifer Fox … producer (produced by) (p.g.a.).
    • Kevin Halloran … executive producer.
    • Nicole Holofcener … producer (produced by) (p.g.a.).
    • Ridley Scott … producer (produced by) (p.g.a.).
    • Sasha Veneziano … associate producer.
    • Drew Vinton … executive producer.
    • Kevin J. Walsh … producer (produced by) (p.g.a.).
  • Writer(s):
    • Nicole Holofcener … (screenplay by).
    • Ben Affleck … (screenplay by).
    • Matt Damon … (screenplay by).
    • Eric Jager … (based upon the books by).
  • Music:
    • Harry Gregson-Williams.
  • Cinematography:
    • Dariusz Wolski … director of photography.
  • Editor(s):
    • Claire Simpson.
  • Production:
    • 20th Century Studios.
    • Pearl Street Films.
    • Scott Free Productions.
    • TSG Entertainment.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Feelgood Entertainment (2021) (Greece) (theatrical).
    • Forum Hungary (2021) (Hungary) (theatrical).
    • NOS Audiovisuais (2021) (Portugal) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Argentina (2021) (Argentina) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (Australia) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (Canada) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (France) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (Germany) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (Italy) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (Netherlands) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (Singapore) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (UK) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2021) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Disney+ (2021) (UK) (video) (VOD).
  • Release Date: 10 September 2021 (Venice Film Festival).
  • Rating: 18.
  • Running Time: 152 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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