The Last Duel is based on the real-events historical drama about the last “Trial By Combat” sanctioned by the King of France in the 13th Century. Two French noblemen, one a Knight the other a Squire, and once good friends fight a duel to the Death when the Knight accuses the Squire of raping his wife. A claim she confirms and stands trial to defend her honor in Medieval France.
The three different perspectives of the husband, the rapist, and Marguerite were genius, especially when we saw the same scene again but from an alternative view. You will love the fact that all three characters were three-dimensional people and that Marguerite was given personality and agency. There was nuance, but ultimately the audience knows what the factual truth is, which is really important.
There has been a great deal of talk about how this Medieval tale takes on a modern sensibility about the rights of women and Rape. I don’t want to wade into all that. Yes, women’s rights were abysmal in the 1300s but the real star of this film is the brutally honest depiction of life as it must have been in France at the time. It is violent, dark, and gloomy and makes for a very realistic viewing.
There has not been an edge of the seat film like this in nearly a decade where stakes were incredibly high and the film delved from quirky and at times disjointed, not knowing where it’s taking us with its tone until it escalated with each story beat building upon the last to become a very dark experience.
Overall, The Last Duel is absolutely sublime from start to finish, changing and morphing as it goes, making what once seemed important seem inconsequential, to the point where the importance of the duel at the end has such a deeper meaning than we could have predicted at the start. We need more films like this. The best thing about this one is we see so much has changed yet so much remains the same.