[Content warning for sexual assault]

The Last Duel, Ridley Scott’s latest men-with-swords epic, is a medieval courtly tale for the #MeToo era. If this take sounds utterly meaningless, that is because it is, a state of affairs that entirely suits Scott’s feeble attempt at political relevance, where feminism is a regurgitated script and progressiveness a thin patina for disguising the same tired narratives.

The film’s #MeToo credentials, such as they are, derive from its central premise (a scene played twice, no less), in which Marguerite (Jodie Comer), the neglected wife of dour knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is raped by his comrade-at-arms Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), and – refusing silence – seeks justice. “I am speaking the truth,” Marguerite insists, the noble tears in her eyes betraying more about society’s fetishization of female testimonial and righteous victimhood than any granular emotional truth.

Every line feels similarly anachronistic, from Marguerite’s soundbites on ‘speaking out’ to a bizarre conversation about her and Le Gris’ favourite novels (a good three centuries before the literary form was invented), as if the screenwriters have little faith in their audience grasping the story’s ongoing significance without contemporary signposting. The only glimpse at innovation is an unusual structure detailing the same events from each character’s viewpoint, but once again The Last Duel’s sledgehammer subtlety rewrites each scene, so that what could have been a fascinating study in tone and perception becomes a clownish demonstration of… the myopia of masculinity? The Cassandra-esque veracity of the female voice? Who can say.

It has been four years since #MeToo promised seismic socio-political change and that The Last Duel is what has trickled, The-Devil-Wears-Prada-like, into the mainstream cultural consciousness is unspeakably depressing, if woefully inevitable. It makes a sick kind of sense that corporate Hollywood turned women’s overwhelming rage into something so reassuring, and so trite.

RATING: 1/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Ben Affleck, Harriet Walter, Alex Lawther

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

WRITERS: Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Nicole Holofcener

SYNOPSIS: A abhorrent violation leads to two former friends duelling to the death in medieval France.