Ridley Scott gets bogged down in medieval mud and murk as he attempts to tell a rape-revenge story starring Jodie Comer, Matt Damon and Adam Driver
Ridley Scott’s latest epic plays like an armour-clad reimagining of Rashomon crossed with a #MeToo-inflected remake of Straw Dogs. Inspired by author Eric Jager’s 2004 account of France’s last officially recognised judicial duel, in which God was trusted to pick the righteous winner, it’s effectively a medieval rape-revenge drama told in three chapters from three different perspectives, all leading up to one blood-soaked battle. Intriguingly, screenwriting duties have been divided across the film’s central characters, with co-stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (who won an Oscar for their Good Will Hunting script) handling the male versions of this story while Nicole Holofcener lends “my perspective as a female” to bring a “different voice” to the table.
We open in Paris in 1386, with shots of Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer) being ritually dressed in black as her husband, Jean (Matt Damon), and his opponent, Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), are laced into chainmail and armour. From here we spiral back to the Battle of Limoges, thrice revisiting events leading up to the titular duel, recounting “the truth according to” each teller. First up is Jean, who bravely saves Jacques’s life only to be betrayed when his erstwhile friend uses his influence with Count Pierre d’Alençon (Affleck) to purloin Jean’s land and inheritance, and thence to “feloniously and carnally take my wife”, for which Jean demands duelling redress. Next comes Jacques’s version, in which Jean peevishly sues for land to which he has no right, and Marguerite, whose diminished dowry had aggrieved her dreary husband, offers only “the customary protests” to his advances (“because she is a lady”), which were “not against her will”.