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The film rolls like a sequence of classical paintings with Scott's uncanny eye for lighting and colour applied to perfectly composed interiors and ravishing locations in the Dordogne. Uniforms, weapons, fencing techniques and hairstyles are meticulously faithful to the Napoleonic period. The illusion of historical richness is furthered by Howard Blake's evocative score and the thoughtfully elegeant script, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novella, "The Duel."
The story is of a long-running duel between two French cavalry officers pursued for its own sake in which ideas of honour, obsession and obligation are examined. Writer Gerald Vaughan-Hughes provides a cinematic dimension by interposing a premarital relationship for one of the protagonists, Armand D'Hubert (Keith Carradine), to accentuate the destructive nature of his contest with adversary, Gabriel Ferraud (Harvey Keitel). Keitel brings a passionate intensity to his role of a resentful man driven "to feed his spite" on a fellow officer of privileged background whom he sees as a pampered "general's poodle." As the hero, Carradine offers the counter-balance of reason with a character of easy charm but one which also raises interesting questions about life's priorities.
Good performances are also given by Albert Finney, Robert Stephens, Diana Quick, Meg Wynn Owen, Edward Fox and Tom Conti.
Special features: the bluray edition includes an exclusive new interview with Keith Carradine.
From there they both spiral into the madness and obsession of Feruand and D'Hubert's need to win at all costs. Fighting over the years, they lose loved ones and, in a sense, lose themselves as the passion for the fight becomes everything. By the end neither man understands why they are truly fighting or what they are fighting for.
Ridley Scott's first feature film was his fourth attempt at making a full length film. Based on a short story by Conrad that eventually became part of a much larger narrative canvas, "The Duelists" catches Scott in perfect form the first time out. While Scott expanded his scope in higher profile films ("Alien", "Blade Runner", "Thelma and Louise" and "Gladiator"), his visual and narrative style blossomed in his very first "epic" (made for a paltry $1 million)film.
The powerful performances by the international cast manages to overcome the minor differences in accents (Keitel's Brooklyn accent vs. Carradine's California twang vs. Tom Conti's British accent, etc.). Visually and thematically powerful, "The Duelists" remains one of Scott's best films.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks marvelous despite some minor blemishes.Read more ›
The simple plot follows the conflict between two soldiers, played by Keither Carradine and Keitel. The origins of the fight are obscure, and soon neither man remembers the reason for it. But over the years they clash, whittling each other away with sabers and pistols for some concept of "honor" on which they cannot agree.
The duels are pretty spectacular, especially the saber fights. Scott tosses all the old fashioned Hollywood swashbuckler styles out and shows bloody, weighty, and furiously realistic combat. Those sabres really could take your arm right off, and they're heavy.
Keitel, of course, is great in the role, but Carradine is a real surprise, carrying the main role with great pride and seriousness. Plenty of great British character actors are on hand as well, such as Robert Stephens (love that guy's voice!). And Stacy Keach does the narration (an odd move to have American voice, but it works.)
You should see the "Duellists" for the visuals alone -- they're like romantic oil paintings come to life, but it's also a thrilling story with great performances. No wonder Scott was instantly recognized as a new talent and given the director's chair on "Alien"!
Most recent customer reviews
This was like watching a painting on a moving ship,then trying to see who moved,
but like every good ship, there're a very few merry men,who can hold their own and live to... Read more
My favorite movie of all time. Visually stunning, superbly acted. Keitel is amazing. A must see.Published on March 30 2013 by Harv Basler
This is a little gem of a movie. It's cinematography is pure gold. For any still photographers out there that have studied photo composition or for that matter painters that... Read morePublished on April 3 2012 by dmcnairn
One of the finest and most accurate visual depictions of very early 19th Century France combined with the viscerally tense drama of the two French cavalry officers who spend 15 or... Read morePublished on Sept. 16 2009 by David L. Hamilton
I enjoyed this film because the producers have captured the era magnificentley with respect to period detail as well as the language and of course the mood of the time. Read morePublished on June 10 2004 by Panos
This is one of my four favorite movies of all time (in company with Lawrence of Arabia, Henry V and the Jackson Ring Trilogy--which counts as 1 in my book). I adore this film! Read morePublished on Dec 25 2003
The DUELLISTS, the first film by GLADIATOR director Ridley Scott, is the story of two soldiers in Napoleon's army who pursue a point of honor to the point of absurdity, fighting... Read morePublished on Dec 1 2003 by Simon Crowe