The first reviews for Matt Damon's medieval film shot in Ireland have arrived
Quite a mixed bag, to say the least...
Matt Damon caused quite a stir when he found himself locked down in Ireland in 2020.
From hailing Leo Varadkar as a "badass" to shouting out students to having a cocktail named after him to promising to return for a full nationwide tour in the future, it's safe to say that the love affair will live long in the memory.
Of course, he later did an interview in which he mentioned only recently "retiring" the use of a homophobic slur – a declaration he has since walked back, for the record – so not everything is perfect in Damon's world, admittedly.
Nonetheless, people are likely interested in seeing the fruits of his Irish labour. Damon was over here in order to film Ridley Scott's medieval epic The Last Duel, which is set for a cinema release next month.
Damon stars alongside the likes of Ben Affleck, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer. The plot centres on the last legally sanctioned duel in French history, as Damon faces off against Driver in trial-by-combat.
Sounds compelling enough, right? Well, not necessarily, at least if the first critics to witness the film are to be taken at their word...
In a two-star review, The Guardian calls out Damon's ill-fitting hairstyle – a mullet, apparently – and notes that he's "solidly cantankerous" in the lead role, adding:
"By the time the film gets round to showing its hand as an episode of Medieval #MeToo, it has numbed us with so much flash and fustian that the heart of the story has almost been drowned... As it is, you quickly tire of the mud, metal and permanently medieval weather: if it’s not snowing, everything’s steeped in mist. And it takes a considerable leap of faith to get over Damon’s mullet and bogbrush beard, less 14th-century knight than 1990s nu-metal bro."
Variety, meanwhile, had a mixed reaction:
"What’s appealing about The Last Duel is that it’s actually, at heart, a rather old-fashioned movie: talky and intricate, spinning around what looks like a competitive, destructive love triangle," says reviewer Owen Glieberman.
"What’s odd about it is that it lacks the satisfying dramatic clarity of an old movie. If this story had been made by Hollywood during the studio-system era, one could envision a version of it in which de Carrouges, the uptight devoted good guy, fails to strike the sparks with his wife that Le Gris, the charismatic scoundrel, does. And that would be played out. There are moments when The Last Duel seems like that very movie. But only moments."
ScreenDaily's Fionnuala Halligan wasn't terribly impressed, either:
"Shot in Ireland and France, before and after lockdown, The Last Duel is based on a true story, that’s certain," she underlines. "And this battle to the death was the last legal duel in France, that is true too.
"Whether such depressing squabbles really needed to be commemorated in film is another question entirely, unless it’s to provoke gratitude that no matter how bad we think things are now, the world has definitely moved on."
But wait! It's not all bad news.
Total Film awarded The Last Duel four stars out of five, comparing the film to Akira Kurosawa classic Rashomon, though the running time of 152 minutes does appear to be a bit of an ask:
"Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski employs a wintry palette that brings the starkness of late-14th-century France alive," says writer James Mottram.
"The Last Duel also evokes, naturally, the director’s career-launching tale of male confrontation, The Duellists (1977). Building towards the – as promised – violent climax, the two-and-a-half-hour running time does begin to feel unwieldy. That aside, this is a dexterous drama that will make you think (and rethink)."
And finally, Indiewire offered the most glowing write-up – although "bad hair" was once again highlighted – noting that the film has a 'They don't make them like this anymore' vibe:
"The Last Duel reveals itself as something all too rare on the current Hollywood field of battle: an intelligent and genuinely daring big budget melee that is — above all else — the product of recognisable artistic collaboration. I guess that makes us the winners."
The Last Duel opens in Irish cinemas on Friday, 15 October.