Welcome to Great Expectations, a recurring series in which we break down the most essential information about an upcoming movie or show. In this edition, we look at what you can expect from — and where you can watch — the Ridley Scott movie The Last Duel.
In 1386, a knight named Sir Jean de Carrouges and a squire named Jacques Le Gris performed the last duel to ever be permitted by a king in France. The subject of the duel was Carrouges’s wife, Marguerite de Thibouville, who claimed she had been raped by Le Gris. She took the matter to court, where it was dismissed. But Carrouges wouldn’t rest until he could truly settle the matter – even if that meant getting blood on his hands.
Now, centuries later, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ridley Scott (Gladiator) is turning the true story of the historic last duel into movie. The Last Duel is based on a 2004 book by Eric Jager called The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France. It was written for the screen by filmmaker Nicole Holofcener, who earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who together won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting.
Here’s everything you need to know about The Last Duel:
The Last Duel Release Date (and Where to Watch)
A cinematic adaptation of Jager’s book has been in talks since as early as 2015. When Ridley Scott got his hands on it, a release date was scheduled for Christmas Day in 2020. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that date was pushed back. Now, The Last Duel is premiering in theaters on October 15, 2021, via Disney’s 20th Century Studios.
The Last Duel Cast
It’s hard to play a person who lived seven hundred years before you were even born. Fortunately, The Last Duel’s cast is chock-full of exceptionally talented actors who are definitely up for the job. Co-writer and three-time Oscar-nominated actor Matt Damon (The Martian) is also starring in the movie as Jean de Carrouges, while Adam Driver (Marriage Story) is his nemesis, Jacques Le Gris. Emmy winner Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) appears as Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite de Thibouville.
The supporting cast includes co-writer Ben Affleck as a very blonde Count Pierre d’Alençon, Harriet Walter (Atonement) as Nicole de Buchard, Nathaniel Parker (The Beast Must Die) as Sir Robert de Thibouville, Sam Hazeldine (The Innocents) as Thomin du Bois, Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones) as Bernard Latour, and Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game) as King Charles VI.
The Plot of The Last Duel
Set during the Hundred Years War, The Last Duel tells the true story of the conflict between Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Driver), as well as the struggles that Marguerite (Comer) faces when attempting to bring her abuser to justice. When the real Marguerite brought the matter to court, the count in charge dismissed her. He said she “must have dreamed it” and insisted that “no further questions ever be raised about it.”
In the trailer, we see Marguerite stating: “I say before all of you, I spoke the truth.” To which a character responds: “The truth does not matter. There is only the power of men.”
And in the real story, that proved to be true. Carrouges decided to appeal the case to King Charles VI in Paris. He asked him to approve a legal duel, which, at the time, were rare but not unheard of. The king told Carrouges that he would allow a duel. That is if Parliament could not determine Le Gris’ innocence first. After several arduous legal hurdles, Parliament did not reach a decision, and thus a duel to the death was scheduled. A fight that would not only allow Carrouges to exact vengeance on the man who harmed his wife. In a twisted logic, it would also determine whether or not Marguerite was telling the truth.
Watch the Trailer
It is undeniable that The Last Duel has a great story working in its favor. But really pulling off a historical drama is no easy feat. Fortunately, based on the trailer for The Last Duel, all those involved seem to have nailed it. Ridley Scott has a lot of experience with period pieces, from his feature debut, The Duelists, and including his Best Picture-winning 2000 epic Gladiator, so he has the relevant skills to get it right. On top of that, the movie features Comer, Damon, and Driver’s excellent acting chops.
Watch the trailer for The Last Duel:
The Movie Was Written from Three Different Perspectives
Not only does The Last Duel have three central characters, but according to Damon, the movie also features a story with three different perspectives. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, he explained the decision to have three writers on the project:
“It’s a story about perspective. So, there are two knights and then there’s the Lady Marguerite. So Ben and I wrote the male perspectives and Nicole Holofcener wrote the female perspective. That’s kind of the architect of that movie. We’d be like, ‘Well, what if this happened?’ and then we’d just write different scenes. So, we had all these kinds of disparate scenes. And then we kind of tried to jam them together into something that looked like a movie.”
In joint statement, Damon, Affleck, and Holofcener noted:
“As we further explored the story, we found so many aspects of the formal, codified patriarchy of 14th century Western Europe to still be present in vestigial ways (and in some cases almost unchanged) in today’s society. We chose to use the device of telling the story from several characters’ perspectives to examine the immutable fact that although often multiple people who experience the same event come away with differing accounts, there can only be one truth.”