A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though it doesn't offer clear answers and leaves off in a pessimistic way, movie clearly demonstrates horror of what women can go through when they stand up against sexual predators, as well as immense strength it takes to do that. Against backdrop of barbaric laws (i.e., rape is not a crime against a woman, it's a crime against her husband, whose "property" she is), these themes stand out in sharp relief.
Positive Role Models
Marguerite is the movie's real and only hero. There's pressure for her to keep quiet and simply endure what happened to her, but she risks absolutely everything, even her unborn child, to try to do the right thing -- to stand up and perhaps encourage others to say that this is not OK. Male characters are depicted as entitled, unable or unwilling to listen to women's point of view.
As is typical for historical movie set in medieval Europe, characters are all White. But unlike many movies of this type, a strong woman emerges who isn't just there to serve and support her husband. She's still locked in by limitations, laws, and beliefs of the time, but she stands out as powerful and brave.
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Violence & Scariness
A brutal rape sequence is shown twice. Overall, movie is extremely gory and bloody: brutal sword fights with slicing and stabbing, a bloody joust battle, terrible wounds, and blood sprays, drips, and puddles. Characters die, and death is discussed. Bruises on woman's shoulder. A bloody corpse is stripped, dragged away, hung. Flaming arrows; a character is hit in head with one and catches fire. Man grabs woman in threatening way. Punching. Deer's neck sliced open. Horses brutally killed during duel. Dialogue describing violent acts (lashing, burning, etc.).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief but explicit sex scenes. Men thrust on top of women, climaxing rapturously. A man is shown with five partners, all naked in bed. Some appear to be pleasuring one of the group; she moans passionately. Full-frontal female nudity. Brief full-frontal male nudity (a corpse). Sex talk, sexual innuendo. A stallion mounts a mare. Character in low-cut, revealing dress.
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Several uses of "f--king" or "f--k." A use of "c--t." A use of "damned."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Heavy drinking during parties (wine). Secondary character drinks almost constantly (some drunkenness, no consequences).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Last Duel is a blood-soaked medieval sword fight drama directed by Ridley Scott, starring Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck. It's ambitious in its attempts to address toxic masculinity and female power, but its length and structure make it frequently clunky and repetitive. Expect extremely gory battle violence, with slicing, stabbing, and buckets of blood. A brutal rape scene is shown twice. A bloody male corpse is stripped, dragged away, and hung; horses die horribly; and more. There are also brief but explicit sex scenes, including a character shown with five partners who are naked in bed. Men are shown thrusting on top of women, and there's full-frontal nudity. Language includes variations on "f--k," a use of "c--t," and a use of "damned." Characters guzzle wine during a party scene, and a secondary character drinks frequently throughout. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This bloody medieval sword fight movie's three-chapter structure is both an asset and a hindrance. At times, it seems to deepen the story, but it also feels repetitive and moves in graceless, blocky chunks. Directed by Ridley Scott, The Last Duel resembles some of his other ancient-times battle movies in that it's serious and clunky, with action that's more forceful and clumsy than exciting. The first chapter, which lays the groundwork for the story, is nearly unendurable, providing curt details and jumping ahead years at a time, without building the characters. The second chapter brings fresh hope, not only because it starts to smooth out the story, layering in emotions and nuance, but also because of Affleck's delightful performance as the rascally count. His character is the only one having fun, sidling about his palace full of drinks and women and savoring his loquacious, soft-leather dialogue. (It's also fun to watch him pick on his buddy Damon in their few scenes together.)
The third chapter is troublesome, since it tends to repeat whole scenes from earlier in the movie with only the slightest variations, as if alternate takes were accidentally added in. Only one sequence, in which de Carrouges and Le Gris shake hands at the party -- seen three different ways -- holds any deeper meaning. If only the movie had been tighter than its 152 minutes allows (like the 88-minute Rashomon), it might have made its point more concisely. But the final third also develops the movie's true themes on toxic masculinity and the power of women. With a screenplay by Affleck, Damon, and filmmaker Nicole Holofcener, it's easy to guess that Holofcener added these touches, and they hit hard. But we leave The Last Duel with the discouraging feeling that all the male characters are horrible and unredeemable and that women have a long, long way to go. (Guess what? They still do.)
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