For all my American friends and readers, happy Independence Day from the UK! Politically speaking you are in troubling times with the Supreme Court going against long settled precedent of Roe v Wade and moving abortion rights to the purview of each individual State. Clarence Thomas, the pillar of women’s rights, says that he would like to revisit decisions about same sex marriage and gay rights. At the same time, they decide to restrict NY laws meant to regulate firearms. At least they are being consistent with the Republican agenda. Sadly one would think that the Court should be neutral. Not so. Anyway, people don’t come here to read about politics. If you want political commentary may I suggest that you watch Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. He has spoken at length about gun control as well as the Roe v Wade decision.
And then here when the decision was rendered:
The Last Duel: I like Ridley Scott’s films generally and I will seek them out. I have mentioned this on a number of occasions before. He does historical fiction, like Gladiator or Kingdom of Heaven as well as anyone, almost as much a space movies like Alien. He teamed up Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who wrote and acted principally in this movie set in the late 1300s in France. A blond headed and gouteed Affleck isn’t a nobleman in a Province within France near Normandy. He isn’t the King, but seemingly a man who who rules over disputes in his territory. Add in combatants Matt Damon and Adam Driver. They are mainly fighting over an allegation of an injustice with Damon’s character’s Wife, played by Jodie Comer. Curiously the story is told in three versions, none of which is overly compelling. The versions address the same timeline as seen through the three people (Driver as a trusted advisor to Affleck, Damon who is at odds with the Affleck character and then Comer the Wife. Of the three boring stories, Comer is the most interesting. Of course we aren’t surprised how women were treated in the 1300s. They are property valued for their dowry and their ability to create heirs. They have no standing in a Court, and are subserviant to their husbands, warts and all. Thus the extreme remedy in this instance for a duel to take place to decide on the truth of allegations for which only God can decide based on who wins. It is a very strange time.
As for the movie it was surprisingly dull. You can see where different versions in subtle and not-so-subtle ways show the individual’s perspective of the same event. Men and different view things differently, and those who are protecting themselves and their reputation are more likely to see things in their own terms. Damon is just horribly miscast in my mind. For a movie set in France, there is very little by anyone to try and speak French. Quite the opposite there are more English accents. Damon never even tries to sound French, but remains full on American, Boston born. Affleck equally looks out of place. They just aren’t period piece guys. Driver and Comer are more cameleons and can seem at the right time almost anywhere. Comer says a lot with her looks and her face. You can see her struggles in her station well. The conviction that she has, despite the risks for her and her husband are not lost on her. Driver is the guy who seems to have had his brush with power give him an air of entitlement, where he can do whetever he wants without consequence since he is good friends with a nobleman. His conviction to this is unfaultering. So in summary, I cannot recommend this movie. It is on Crave. There are other better Scott movies to seek out.
I will further note that Scott, in his 80s now, is working on a movie about the early days of Napoleon Bonaparte, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Comer was scheduled to play Josephine but had to bow out. Vanessa Kirby will join in. It is called Kitbag. Vanessa Kirby is a good replacement. Known for her roles in Mission Impossible and The Crown.
The 355: Jessica Chastain is a committed proponent to equal pay for women in roles and finding more roles for women as leads. She is so committed to this that her production company Freckles Productions, have put together a spy thriller in the same vein as James Bond and Mission Impossible. I have always been a fan. She chooses interesting projects, and she recently brought home the Oscar for her portrayal of Tammy Taye Bakker. In this project she has brought together herself, Penelope Cruz, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o and Bingbing Fan. No one will ever accuse of not addressing diversity. These women, save Cruz, play spies from various spy agencies who are tasked with looking for a thumb drive (for lack of a better word) that has the capability to cause chaos. Cruz plays a psychiatrist brought into the plot. The chaos can be infiltrating any system one wants to obtain information or even circumvent airplane systems and bring the planes down. The drive was created by a Columbian drug lords son, and was looking to sell it to the highest bidder. Things happen and these disparate female spies eventually learn that they need to work together. Inexplicably the drive passes through various hands, but it is important to track down since it can “end the world as we know it”. As a viewer, I am thinking, if I ever got my hands as an officer of a peace loving nation, that my first instinct would be to simply destroy it. But then again there wouldn’t be much of a movie if that happened.
Chastain in particular plays a women who is a loner with no loved ones. There is a romantic aspect, in the same way that James Bond has romantic interests. I was also thinking that the difference between Daniel Craig or Tom Cruise and Jessica Chastain in this role is that she is performing these stunts and fights with heels on, reminiscent of Ginger Rogers doing all of Fred Astaire dances only in reverse and with heels on! The plot moves along. Much of the same buddy movie, partners of different origins are explored without adding much to the overall commentary to it. We see that women can play these roles, which we have seen in movies like SALT , Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie and Rebecca Ferguson in Mission Impossible that they are more than capable. For me, I think that the Kruger role was the most interesting. She has her own family issues to address. All the while she has tremendous pressure to obtain the drive. She has tension with the other women, as well as her boss. Will this movie fill the movie theatre seats? It didn’t. Obviously COVID has something to do with that, so it is hard to imagine how it would do now competing against Top Gun or Elvis. I found this silly. The solution to the recurring problem would be to destroy it, or blast it upon sight. This is better than Ava where Jessica was taking on the Spy role earlier. But it isn’t in the same category of the other named film staples.