The new movie “The Last Duel” marks the first time Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have written a screenplay together since “Good Will Hunting”, released in 1997 and won both of them the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1998. I recently saw both Affleck and Damon on a talk show, talking about the arduous and long task of writing Good Will Hunting. According to Damon, the process took years of learning how to create a great screenplay, and over 1000 pages of trial and error. This is what it takes to create a great screenplay, which is why so few have been written. It took of all people, Harvey Weinstein to bring Good Will Hunting to the screen with his money and clout – unfortunately.
The story behind The Last Duel happened in the 1380’s in France. Amazingly this story is about a duel to the death over a woman, due to a he said – she said – over a alleged rape of a French Soldier’s wife and his best friend. This story is told in 3 parts, reminding me of a weak episode of a sitcom where 3 perspectives of a story are told almost as if the writers had trouble coming up with a teleplay that week. How and why Damon and Affleck found this obscure story from so long ago and then agreed to go through the hardships of writing and then filming a movie like this in the depressing dark French countryside for months, is the most unlikely part about this film. Then add highly respected director Ridley Scott who directed this movie that like so many films was halted in mid production during the Pandemic of 2020.
I am very surprised by the relatively high 86% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for this film, despite the good acting including relative newcomer Jodie Comer, who plays Damon’s wife. There are too many areas of slow moving boredom that in some cases can offset the good parts of this film and I did not like the 3 part perspective idea, repeating too many areas of this story. For me, the essential problem is that the overall idea here is not big enough or compelling enough to make a movie about it. The final duel scene is impressive between Adam Driver and Matt Damon, and I was surprised at the relatively small role for Ben Affleck, who plays a King who constantly cheats on his wife.
I rank this movie as a marginal thumbs up, mainly for fans of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.