Jodie Comer comes up against odious men played by Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Adam Driver in a reverse rape-revenge parable set in 14th-century France
Here is a bizarre rape-revenge parable where the rapists get to do the revenging, based on a true story and set in a 14th-century society of bluebloods infatuated with their own reputation for gallantry, nobility and courtly love. It is co-written by Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and directed by Ridley Scott at a full-tilt gallop, with the same muscular force as his great crowd-pleaser Gladiator. At its premiere at the Venice film festival last month, The Last Duel was coolly received by critics, perhaps uneasy at this theme being tackled by alpha male stars. But though flawed, its old-fashioned movie-making energy commands attention as well as its ingenious, if overextended three-act Rashomon structure, retelling the same story from three different standpoints, mostly without insisting on tricksy discrepancies.
This is a story of rape that does not instantly extend to the complainant the #MeToo prerogative of victim-belief, giving us the story as told by the victim’s husband, the culprit and finally the victim herself in a he-said-he-said-she-said format. But a trick with the intertitles makes it clear which story is the truth. It is based on medieval literature specialist Eric Jager’s bestseller The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial By Combat in Medieval France, which recounted how, in 1386, the Norman knight Jean de Carrouges demanded of King Charles VI the right to a fight-to-the-death with a certain Jacques Le Gris, with whom he was already in bitter dispute over a matter of land ownership and military preferment, and who he now accused of raping his wife, Marguerite.