The Last Duel Parent Guide
Riveting performances make this film about rape and revenge feel both real and eerily relevant.
Parent Movie Review
France in 1386 is a dangerous place, a kingdom as violent or bureaucratic as any in Europe, a country still recovering from the ravages of a plague which mowed down half the population. For knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), it is a world in which he is unable to get ahead despite his best efforts and remarkable (if foolhardy) valor on many a battlefield. Carrouges had once been able to rely on his friend, fellow man at arms Jacque Le Gris (Adam Driver), but Le Gris has had far more success than Carrouges ever dreamed of, and jealousy has poisoned their friendship. When Carrouges’ wife, Margeurite (Jodie Comer) accuses Le Gris of rape, Carrouges vows not just justice, but vengeance. With the courts unable to determine who has told the truth, they allow Carrouges the right of trial by combat – the last such duel ever to be fought in France – and one with terrifying consequences for all involved.
I’ll start with the positives, for a change. Marguerite is told that “The truth does not matter. There is only the power of men.” This film is a searing indictment of that dark (and timeless) reality. Through this piece of history, The Last Duel examines how society (then and now) approaches accusations of sexual violence, both in the treatment of women who have the audacity to tell the truth and in shielding the men who commit the assaults. For that reason, the movie is hard to watch. Apart from the scenes of sexual assault, I found Margeurite’s public interrogation among the most disturbing in the film. Jodie Comer portrays confidence and vulnerability concurrently somehow, and her performance holds the film together.
It’s a good thing Comer provides such an arresting performance because the film needs a lot of holding together. The two-and-a-half hour runtime is far more than the story needs. The runtime is lengthened by telling, essentially, three different stories: specifically, the same story from three different perspectives. But even with that in mind, the script could have used some major trimming. Then there’s the aggressive color-correction. I won’t bore you with my gripes about historical accuracy, but I will tell you that I spent a fair amount of time grinding my teeth at how bleak and colorless the filmmakers chose to make medieval France. Also disappointing is Adam Driver, who I think is a wonderful actor (even if he did star in the unspeakably bad Star Wars sequels), but in this film he keeps doing a light English accent about half the time and it’s awful. Not as bad as Kevin Costner in Prince of Thieves awful, but more than enough to be distracting.
As you may have guessed from the plot synopsis, a movie about rape which is solved by a fight to the death isn’t a film geared at young viewers. Plenty of bloodshed, sex, and sexual violence keep this firmly in the adults-only camp. Besides which, if you think you can get you tween to sit still for two-and-a-half hours while a bunch of talking heads discuss land taxes, medieval French law, and the finer points of succession, you’re out of your mind. Heck, you can barely get me to sit through it, and I’m interested in all that stuff. So, if you decide to watch this, (and there’s interesting material here for adults who aren’t easily disturbed), just remember to plan your bathroom breaks carefully. A large soda goes a long way…Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck. Running time: 152 minutes. Theatrical release October 15, 2021. Updated October 15, 2021
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The Last Duel
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Last Duel rated R? The Last Duel is rated R by the MPAA for strong violence including sexual assault, sexual content, some graphic nudity, and language
Violence: Unarmed men and women are beheaded during a battle. Men and horses are stabbed, slashed, and generally bloodily murdered. There are references to being burned at the stake. A woman is violently raped on two occasions. A stag is killed during a hunt.
Sexual Content: There are several scenes depicting group sex, some of which involve brief background female nudity and are implied to involve prostitution. One scene briefly depicts horses breeding. A woman is seen being violently raped on two occasions.
Profanity: There are five extreme profanities and infrequent uses of mild curses, crude anatomical terms, and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are seen drinking socially.
Page last updated October 15, 2021
The Last Duel Parents' Guide
What do other historians have to say about this event? What has changed in how the legal system handles allegations of rape? What has stayed the same? What are some recent high-profile cases of sexual assault? How have they been handled?
These articles provide more information about the historical background of this story:
Smithsonian Magazine: The True History Behind “The Last Duel”
History vs Hollywood: The Last Duel
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you’re interested in contemporary medieval stories, you might enjoy some of the original Middle English Romances like Gawain and the Green Knight, Le Morte D’Arthur, Lancelot Le Chevalier de la Charette, or even “histories” like Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. We’ve linked modern translations and you can read these versions online at no charge.
Related home video titles:
Fans of medieval storytelling will enjoy Gawain and the Green Knight. Ladyhawke claims to be set in medieval Italy, with dubious accuracy but lots of fantasy adventure nonetheless. Kenneth Branagh’s phenomenal adaptation of Henry V sees King Charles VI briefly return. Other options include films like Kingdom of Heaven, The Seventh Seal, or even Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Those looking for stories about sexual violence might try films like Promising Young Woman, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Accused, or The Brave One. This film shares some structural and story elements with the famous Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon.