The Last Duel

In Cinemas 21 October.

* * * 1/2

Sir Ridley Scott’s sprawling, very expensive-looking, old-school epic throwback The Last Duel is a strange beast. Featuring masterfully designed and executed art direction (it’s set in France in the 1300s, with castles, horses, gates, bridges, lances, swords, ladies in waiting, armour, medieval Paris, and about sixty never-not-roaring fireplaces), a superb central performance from Jodie Comer, and three fruity turns from Adam Driver, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, it succeeds in being engaging and entertaining throughout its two-and-a-half-hour runtime despite an icky story.

Scott uses Rashomon’s structure: an alleged sexual assault, told three times from three different perspectives, including that of the victim (Comer, of course, with Driver the accused). It’s rather shocking, seeing a big-budget rape drama (with an A-List actor playing the alleged rapist); to see rape portrayed at all demands sensitivity and kid gloves, and this movie’s gloves are all made of heavy metal.

Frankly, the themes are too grave for the flamboyant treatment, yet it’s the treatment that’s entertaining. Filled with astonishing visuals, and perhaps saved by Comer’s precise performance, the film succeeds despite itself, a ravishing relic.

Jason Bourne

JASON-BOURNE

***1/2

This time around Jason Bourne finds himself pitted against… the Director of the CIA. I seem to remember this was the basis of the first Bourne movie, but it’s been an awfully long time. I didn’t see the last one, with Jeremy Renner instead of Matt Damon, but Damon is back in this one, and he’s become very beefy. Bourne is earning a crust bare-knuckle boxing around the fringes of Europe, which isn’t important to the plot in the slightest, but made for an extremely viral-friendly trailer.

Bourne learns a dark secret about his past (specifically, his indoctrination into the CIA’s creepy program) while the CIA itself is having problems with their Facebook-like puppet information-gatherer, Deep Dream. The concept that the CIA funded the world’s major social media company as a young start-up and has been using it to monitor us all ever since is a strong and spooky one, and it’s well played for the first two acts. Unfortunately, this idea – along with almost all logic – goes out the window for the final act, which is ludicrous.

Look, the whole thing is ludicrous, but it’s actually enormous fun. It’s staffed by a realm of really good actors and somehow they make it work. Tommy Lee Jones, as head of the CIA, stares into an awful lot of monitors with blue light bathing his face, and he does it well. Scott Shepherd, following on from his CIA agent in Bridge of Spies, plays the Deputy Director, and, if he wants it, seems to have a career in the Hollywood CIA ahead of him. Alicia Vikander gets to stare into monitors and move around a bit, and she does both well, although her very weird accent suggests she may be Irish. Vincent Cassel plays “The Asset”, which is just cool in every way. Best of all, Riz Ahmed plays the Zuckerberg stand-in with a perfect mix of cockiness and trepidation, a sweet inversion of his character from The Night Of.

Director Paul Greengrass never takes the thing off the boil; the music, in particular, is all peak and no valley, so the whole film feels like one extended action sequence. When it hypes up into an actual action sequence – there are a few vehicular chases, fistfights et al – Greengrass once again, as has always been his wont, cuts it all up into an incoherent mess. It is truly bizarre that this excellent director will not heed our cries to be able to see the chase, follow the fight. At this point, it feels deliberate and belligerent on his part. But he shoots crowds and squares and train stations and other civic centres extremely well, and it is in these that Bourne and The Asset bustle, in London, Athens, Rome and other cool places, giving us a pumped-up, giddily rewarding espionage travelogue, which is pretty much how I remember the first Bourne movie from all those years ago.