Based on Eric Jager’s 2004 book, The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France, Ridley Scott will make The Last Duel, an epic historical drama film, in 2021. With Damon portraying a knight named Jean de Carrouges, the story takes place in medieval France, where Jean’s wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer), accuses Jean’s erstwhile friend, squire Jacques (Adam Driver), of having raped her. After hearing her side of the story, Jean challenges Jacques to a duel. There are three chapters to the events leading up to the duel, reflecting the divergent points of view of the three primary protagonists. Affleck also plays Count Pierre d’Alençon in the supporting role.
First announced in 2015, the film adaptation of Jager’s book has just now received official greenlighting as of this summer. With Affleck and Damon signed on as performers and writers, Comer and Driver would join them later that year on the cast list. COVID-19 prevented filming for several months in February and October of 2020, but production resumed in November and December of that year.
Venice Film Festival held its international premiere on September 10 and released The Last Duel on October 15, 2021, by 20th Century Studios in the United States of America. Criticism for the film was overwhelmingly good, with comparisons to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon being made by certain critics (1950). The National Board of Review named it one of the top ten movies of the year in 2021. Although the film earned $30.6 million at the box office against a $100 million production budget, it was a failure.
The Last Duel Plot
The film is broken up into three separate chapters, each of which deals with a different character’s point of view.
Squires Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris swear their allegiance to the count of Alençon, who has been designated as Jean’s master by the King of France, Charles VI, following their service in the Caroline War. Jacques tells Jean that Pierre has given him the responsibility of collecting war taxes and that he would appeal for leniency on Jean’s behalf when his brother-in-arms explains that he lacks the finances.
A significant dowry and the claim to several rich estates including the prized Aunou-le-Faucon property are part of Marguerite de Thibouville and Jean’s restitution of his fortunes. Pierre, on the other hand, has already given Jacques the estate as a present. The king dismisses Jean’s suit to reclaim the estate when he presents it to him. Retaliation: Pierre renames Jacques the captain of the Bellême Castle, which the Carrouges family had controlled for generations, in retaliation. A lack of a child from Marguerite causes tension in the marriage of Pierre, but Le Gris’ ability to arrange the count’s money secures his place at the court.
Later, at a festival, the two men reconcile and Jacques falls in love with Marguerite, whom he befriends as a ruse to earn his favor. It seems to Jacques like she’s reciprocating his feelings for him, thus he thinks that she doesn’t love Jean after this exchange.
Jean sets off for Paris to collect his money after a failed military battle in Scotland leaves him knighted for his services but still broke. During Jean’s absence, Marguerite is left alone by his mother, who is attending a legal matter. Once inside the chateau, Jacques proudly declares his undying love for the place. To her dismay, he follows her into her room where she attempts to flee, only for him to chase her there and viciously rape her before instructing her not to inform her husband about the encounter.
Marguerite tells Jean what occurred when he returns, and after Jean questions, if she is telling the truth angrily, Jean believes she is telling the truth and demands that Marguerite have sex with him right now in order for him to not be “the last guy she knew.”
According to Pierre, Jean accuses him of raping Marguerite, a charge Pierre denies. The count tries to assert his power, but Jean goes to King Charles and demands a deathmatch. Accepting the challenge, Jacques goes for it.
As a result of her prior comments on Jacques’ attractiveness, Marguerite’s friends forsake her, while Jean’s mother urges Marguerite to dismiss her claims (and to abide by any consequences) in order to spare her son’s court sentence, citing a previous instance when she herself was raped.
Six months later, Marguerite, now six months pregnant, testifies during Jacques’ trial and insists that she is telling the truth, despite the court’s inference that Jacques is the father of her unborn baby. A death-defying duel is agreed to by Charles VI. She accuses Jean of omitting to warn her that he would be burned alive if she didn’t cooperate. A few days before the fight, Marguerite gives birth to a baby boy named Edgar.
At the beginning of the duel, Jean and Jacques are jousting until they both lose their horses and have to fight one-on-one instead. Although Jean has been slashed, he is able to restrain Jacques. After Jean demands Jacques’ confession or else face the wrath of God, Jacques insists on his innocence and is shot by Jean. Jean revels in the grandeur of his win, while Marguerite meekly follows in his footsteps. His body is stripped and paraded around the streets before it is publicly hung upside-down.
For the rest of her life, Marguerite remained to manage her father’s land and never married again, according to a textual epilogue. Jean died fighting in the Crusades some years later.
- Matt Damon as Sir Jean de Carrouges
- Adam Driver as Jacques Le Gris
- Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges
- Ben Affleck as Count Pierre d’Alençon
- Harriet Walter as Nicole de Buchard
- Alex Lawther as King Charles VI
- Serena Kennedy as Queen Isabeau
- Marton Csokas as Crespin
- Željko Ivanek as Le Coq
- Tallulah Haddon as Mar
The Last Duel Production
It was first revealed in July 2015 that Francis Lawrence would be directing and Shaun Grant would be penning the screenplay. In the absence of any additional development, the film rights expired. Affleck and Damon will star, and Scott will direct and write the screenplay with Nicole Holofcener, according to Deadline Hollywood in July of this year. It was unclear whether Walt Disney Studios would create the picture because of its subject matter, but Deadline Hollywood reported that “every studio in town was waiting in the wings” if Disney sold the rights.
The next month, Jodie Comer initiated discussions to join the cast and was confirmed, with Adam Driver initiating negotiations to join the picture after Affleck chose to play a different supporting character. A release date for Driver was announced by Disney in November of last year: it will be released on December 10, 2019. In February 2020, Harriet Walter joined the cast as an extra.
On February 14, 2020, filming began in Dordogne, France. In Berzé-le-Châtel (next to Mâcon), Burgundy (France), from March 12 to March 12, 2020, in a historic castle. (with a film crew of 300 people including 100 extras).
Bective Abbey in County Meath and Cahir Castle in County Tipperary as well as several places in Dublin and County Wicklow were to be used as filming locations from March 23, 2020, to March 30, 2020. Disney confirmed on March 13th, 2020, that the shoot had to be postponed indefinitely because of safety concerns for the actors and crew due to the COVID-19 epidemic and travel restrictions in Europe. Filming resumed in Ireland in late September 2020 and was completed on October 14, 2020, in Dublin, Ireland.
The Last Duel Release Date
Due to unforeseen circumstances, the publication of The Last Duel has been delayed until January 8, 2021.
The release date was pushed back to October 15, 2021, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A world premiere was placed on September 10th, 2021, at the Venice Film Festival.  It was only available digitally for the final 45 days of its theatrical run.
A digital and premium video-on-demand release took place on November 30, 2021, and a physical release on December 14, 2021, via Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, along with a Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultra HD Blu-ray release.