Latest reviews of new albums:
The Last Duel
  • Composed by Harry Gregson-Williams

Ridley Scott’s best-reviewed film in quite a while, The Last Duel nevertheless struggled to find much of an audience at cinemas. Ostensibly an historical drama, the film is quite clearly a commentary on the struggles that women continue to face when the victim of sexual violence; Matt Damon and Adam Driver play the men who literally duel to determine the fate of Jodie Comer (wife of Damon, raped by Driver) back in the 14th century. Scott reunites with composer Harry Gregson-Williams on the film, who has scored several of his pictures since they first worked together on Kingdom of Heaven and it is that score which this one resembles on some facile level, with the ancient religious feel in common between them. They’re very different beasts, though – while that style was part of a general post-Gladiator historical epic sound in the earlier film, this time it is front and centre, with Gregson-Williams offering the most directly liturgical Hollywood film score I can remember in an absolute age, combining it with some elements of a medieval sound while still making it sound like a 2021 film score – a fairly delicate balancing act, and one the composer has pulled off quite impressively.

The score’s main theme, for Comer’s character, is its greatest asset. Often heard in choral form, as at the start of the album’s opening cue “Duel Preparations”, perhaps its finest appearance is in the closing track “Celui Que Je Désire” where it is sung very beautifully by Grace Davidson. Very overtly religious choral music dominates the middle section of the album in particular, reaching its highlight in the gorgeous “Court of King Charles”. Elsewhere the composer tends to favour subtle, delicately-textured drama with colour provided by some of the ancient instrumentation he adds to the orchestra; interestingly he leaves the film’s action sequences unscored, so don’t expect too many histrionics: only really in the slightly James Horner-like opening cue is there much in the way of music designed to set the pulse racing, beyond a few bars here or there later on. “Jean de Carrouges” is a nice theme for Damon’s character – it’s very brief (as most of the cues are), but brings a dash of heroism. The Last Duel is fine music – perhaps like a sanitised, much more easy listening take on Daniel Hart’s recent The Green Knight – as an album perhaps the brevity of so many of the cues is a bit of a blocker to the listening experience, but it’s a calming album, ethereal at times, and I like it.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

Tags: ,

  1. Svared (Reply) on Sunday 7 November, 2021 at 19:09

    Completelly agree, it’s a nice, catchy score and HGW once again nailed the medieval atmosphere (one can only dream of what he could have done with Robin Hood), but it’s also a bit fleeting. Doesn’t really resonate in you or anything.

  2. ghostof82 (Reply) on Monday 8 November, 2021 at 21:10

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly frustrated by albums consisting of short tracks. Its something that didn’t bother me, years ago- and indeed, I was actually more annoyed by short pieces being joined to make longer tracks on albums, even when John Williams did it on his Star Wars soundtrack albums. But yeah, these days… I’m more sympathetic to the listening experience. Sure, I’ll always hanker for a chronological and complete Blade Runner score, but will always admit that Vangelis was onto something when he assembled his belated Blade Runner album in 1994.