All other considerations aside, Ridley Scott’s work ethic should shame us all. The 83-year-old filmmaker has two features coming out this year: House of Gucci, which once again sees him exploring areas of wealth and privilege as he did in All the Money in the World (2017), and The Last Duel, in cinemas at the time of writing, which sees him return to the historical epics he loves — and areas of wealth and privilege. It’s a Ridley twofer.
Based on the 2004 book The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager (which I am currently about a third of the way through), The Last Duel tells the true (and yeah, pretty accurate based on my research so far) story of the last judicial duel in France, which took place in 1383, a practice whereby an accuser, having exhausted all other legal avenues, might win out by challenging a defendant to trial by combat — last man standing is right by God, and the loser is generally dead.
The accuser, in this case, is brutish but valorous (for a certain value thereof) knight Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), whose wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer), has been raped by Jean’s frenemy, the squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver). Jacques is a favorite of Jean’s liege lord, Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck), and so Jean, having found no satisfaction at the local level, takes his case all the way to King Charles VI (Alex Lawther). After a remarkable amount of legal manoeuvring that takes into account all manner of concerns such as property, inheritance, fealty, and religion, the stage is set for the titular battle. If Jean wins, he’ll be vindicated. If he loses, well, see above. And as for Marguerite? Having given testimony against Jacques, she’ll be burned alive for giving false witness. The stakes (and the stake) are high.