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New Escapist Column! On “The Last Duel”, “Dune”, “The Green Knight”, and Being the Hero of One’s Own Story…

I published a new column at The Escapist at the weekend. With the release of Dune and The Last Duel on home media, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the overlap between the two films, along with The Green Knight.

All three stories are recognisable as traditional epics, medieval or pseudo-medieval adventures featuring men who perceive themselves to be the heroes of their own narratives. However, all three films cleverly interrogate that idea of story and narrative, asking what it means to be the hero of one’s own story and who gets to control the narrative. It’s a fascinating and interesting trend, and it’s notable that all three films premiered within a few months of each other.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On Letting Ridley Scott Be a Grumpy Old Man…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of House of Gucci, Ridley Scott has had a chance to talk about the financial failure of The Last Duel, blaming “millennian” audiences.

Scott’s comments have generated considerable online outrage, fueling more than a few clickbaity headlines designed to stoke anger. It’s a familiar process, which is why so many interviews seem to consist of asking really great directors what they think about superhero movies so that the outlet might be able to go viral with a spicy headline. In truth, Scott’s a filmmaker who has been working for well over half a decade. He’s an 84-year-old man who made two movies in the middle of the pandemic – one of which is actively good, and both are at least interesting. Maybe he can be a grumpy old man.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Video! “The Last Duel Proves Ridley Scott Is Still Sharp – Review”

I’m thrilled to be launching movie reviews on The Escapist. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute film review of The Last Duel, which released theatrically worldwide last weekend.

Non-Review Review: The Last Duel

The Last Duel is a thorny and compelling medieval epic. It’s a little rough around the edges, but that’s undeniably part of the appeal.

The Last Duel is adapted from the book of the same name by historian Eric Jager. As its title implies, the film offers an account of the last judicial duel permitted by the Parlement of Paris. That duel was fought between two noblemen: Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris. The challenge was offered over allegations that Le Gris had raped de Carrouges’ wife, Maguerite. The assumption was that divine authority would ultimately determine where the truth lay in the matter, that the victor in this mortal combat would ultimately be vindicated.

Duel narratives.

Naturally, the events that inspired The Last Duel remain contentious. Historians are not entirely sure what happened, and how much of the various accounts reflect the truth of what happened or have been shaped by the convenient narratives of the victors. The film, with a screenplay from Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener, leans into this ambiguity. The film is structured similarly to Akira Kurosawa’s Roshomon, outlining three separate accounts of the events leading up to the trial from the perspective of each of the key figures: Jean, Jacques and Maguerite.

The result is a film that touches on the blurred boundaries between history and narrative, and explores the way in which these sorts of stories are shaped by wounded pride and vain ego. It’s an uncomfortable and unsettling film, occasionally a little clumsy in its execution, but which grapples with big ideas.

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New Escapist Column! On the Return of the Hollywood Epic…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. With the release of The Green Knight, and the upcoming releases of movies like Dune and The Last Duel, it seems like the old-fashioned Hollywood epic might be making a comeback.

This is interesting, as the genre has long been a Hollywood staple. Most people obviously think of the big biblical epics from the middle of the twentieth-century – Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, Quo Vadis? However, there was an interesting revival at the turn of the millennium with the release of Gladiator and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but Hollywood failed to really reignite the genre. However, that failure has not been for lack of trying.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.