Ridley Scott’s feature film debut was always a film that was high on my to-view list. I just never got around to it. But with the release of Prometheus just a few months away I decided to do a retrospective of Scott’s work, starting with The Duellists. I hope to finish my retrospective by the time Prometheus hits the screens, but we’ll have to wait and see if that will be the case.
As for The Duellists, I was very impressed with the visual side of the movie. It is very clear that we are dealing with a director who has a very keen eye for staging, lighting, dressing and so forth. He had already worked in the business for more than fifteen years, and it shows. Nothing is left to chance, even though everything was filmed on location and nothing was built for the production due to budgetary restraints
What did not grab me was the story. It felt more like a series of short movies with the same protagonist and antagonist. One movie I have yet to view is Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, and the comment about The Duellists I hear most often is that this is a poor man’s Barry Lyndon. Scott has stated that Lyndon was an enormous influence on his debut movie and there is no real shame in that. Performing less than Kubrick is not something to be ashamed about either. It was his first film after all.
I can recommend The Duellists for people who are Ridley Scott completists. Just to see where his visual ideas for movies like Blade Runner and Gladiator originated. Otherwise, I have no real reason to tell people to see this.