Friday, August 10, 2012
The Duelists. B+
While The Duelists might have benefitted from an extra hour or so, it might also have negatively drawn even further comparisons to Kubrick's Barry Lyndon with such an extension. As it stands, the movie is only 100 minutes, and while that might not be enough time to make the substantial content at hand really gel, the movie's still pretty good. An outstanding debut, this is basically Ridley Scott's answer to Barry Lyndon. He uses a similar story and setting, and focuses especially on evocative cinematography in the same way Lyndon did. Or one could say that The Duelists is Barry Lyndon for ADD viewers. After all, Kubrick's masterpiece was long and often slow with very little action to compensate. Scott's film, inspired by a Joseph Conrad story, is more intense, as two French officers become bitter rivals and attempt to kill each other through a series of duels that goes on for over a decade. There are several fight scenes between the two, and when they're not dueling, there's always tension gathering towards their encounter. I think the point to the story is that these two men don't really have a good reason to keep dueling, ye the more they do it the more they are driven to defeat the other. I imagine dueling works somewhat like a vacuum, which is to say one gets sucked into it and cannot resist the thrill finish, even if it does take years. Still, because these are human beings, it's hard to imagine their rivalry remaining so intense through so many years merely because its root cause is a little silly. And that in my mind is the major flaw in a movie that's otherwise hard to cavil over. It's filled with tension, yet we don't feel it as much as we should because the source of these characters' rivalry isn't convincing enough. Still, Scott more than makes up for this problem with a fantastic eye for visuals, especially the way the lighting and color saturate the screen.