Movie review: The Last Duel
THE LAST DUEL (R21)
Who knew a real-life sex scandal set in mediaeval times could resonate so effectively in the #MeToo era?
And that systemic misogyny truly put the "dark" in the Dark Ages?
Based on actual events in 1386, this historical drama centres on Marguerite (Jodie Comer), the wife of gruff knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), who claims to have been raped by his friend-turned-enemy, charismatic squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver).
When Le Gris denies the charge, de Carrouges challenges him to trial by combat, in what is known as the last legally sanctioned duel in France's history.
Directed by Ridley Scott with a screenplay by Damon and Ben Affleck (who stars as Le Gris' ally, Count Pierre d'Alencon), The Last Duel - opening in cinemas here on Oct 14 - unfolds Rashomon-style, where the three main characters provide subjective, alternative and contradictory versions of the same incident, after which "the truth" is finally revealed.
By exploring multiple perspectives, peppered with nuanced differences, it is no wonder the film clocks in at 152 minutes. It is mostly riveting, but can feel rather repetitive at times.
Damon and Driver represent toxic masculinity at both extremes.
It is set against the Hundred Years' War, and one can expect the action set pieces and titular fight to the death to be bloody, tense and bone-crunchingly savage.
But this is no Gladiator or Braveheart. The Last Duel, at its core, is a woman's story. And Comer is the true star, putting in a career-best turn.
In a world where women are marginalised and disempowered, Marguerite refuses to stay silent like the countless women before her. By accusing her attacker, she puts her reputation and life on the line.
However, many parts will be triggering to a female audience today, whether it is the issue of consent or reproductive choice.
Saying "no" to a man's advances were considered "customary protests", while a young bride is traded from her father to husband like a piece of property or a mare in season.
And I dare you not to be outraged when a court of old geezers mansplain to Marguerite, who had failed to conceive an heir after years in a loveless marriage, that she became pregnant after the sexual assault because she derived pleasure from it. - JEANMARIE TAN