“I want him to answer for what he has done,” Marguerite says when prodded as to whether she wishes to proceed with a charge that could lead to bloodshed, adding — in a line that echoes through the centuries into the #MeToo era — “I cannot be silent.”
Speaking out, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that Le Gris will be held accountable. The result of the duel is intended to reflect God’s will and the righteousness of the allegation, leaving Marguerite’s rights dependent on her taciturn husband, since she is seen as his property.
Given the conflicting accounts, what happened? “The Last Duel” dices that into parts representing “the truth” in the eyes of Carrouges, Le Gris and Marguerite, which explains the obvious “Rashomon” parallels, although the variations here are in some respects more subtle.
Affleck also takes a smallish role as the nobleman Count Pierre d’Alençon, who finds a welcome companion for his lecherous exploits in Le Gris and doesn’t much care for Carrouges primarily because his all-war, no-play demeanor means he’s not much fun to have around.
Shot in washed-out tones, the movie meticulously replicates the period, and the visceral climactic sequence is worth catching on a big screen (and probably again at home). As for the precipitating event, its depiction feels necessary to the story, which doesn’t make watching it any less disturbing.
At 83, Scott’s knack for brawny filmmaking that transports audiences into different worlds and times hasn’t diminished. Even so, the film’s star power will be tested by a movie that proves as much a psychological character study as a swashbuckling epic, wading into feudal politics with talk of taxes and shedding blood for ungrateful lords and lieges.
The movie thus plays like a throwback in several respects, back to an era when audiences dutifully flocked to theaters to see the likes of Robert Taylor or Alan Ladd tramp around in armor. In the age of streaming, inspiring people to leave their castles for that sort of fare looks like a battle that “The Last Duel” will be hard-pressed to win.
“The Last Duel” premieres in US theaters on Oct. 15. It’s rated R.