16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Thought-provoking first effort by Ridley Scott,
By A Customer
This review is from: Duellists [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Ridley Scott's first theatrical release, "The Duellists", is a thought-provoking exploration of the rivalry between two officers in Napoleon's army. The plot is taken from the Joseph Conrad short story, "The Duel", in which two French officers face each other in a series of duels over 15 years. Keith Carradine plays Lt. Armand d'Hubert, a Hussar of Napoleon's cavalry, who is sent on a routine errand to arrest Lt. Gabriel Ferraud (played by Harvey Keitel), for having wounded a man in a duel. Upon hearing of his arrest, Ferraud challenges d'Hubert to a duel, which both survive. Although d'Hubert is reluctant to fight, and though forbidden by his commanding general to confront Ferraud while the army is at war, he cannot avoid the other man's challenges. What was merely a perceived insult on Ferraud's part becomes a matter of honor. In early 19th century military fashion, the duel was an acceptable, if unsanctioned, way of defending one's reputation. D'Hubert, too, seems drawn to the violent encounters, as a way of setting the record straight (if not for Ferraud, at least for the troop). Both men are portrayed as loyal and able soldiers. D'Hubert is laid-back, cautious yet brave, his loyalty to Napoleon tempered by realism. Ferraud is touchy, combative, fanatical. Even after the Emperor's final defeat he remains sure of his devotion. In the final chapter of the film we see d'Hubert settled in quiet married domesticity (and security in the restored King Louis XVIII's army), while Ferraud languishes in obscurity as an outdated Bonapartite. The two men (now generals) will meet for a final time. The outcome is intriguing, and it follows Conrad's story to a melancholy end.
Film reviewers have often criticized Scott's films as having tons of atmosphere but not much meat in the plot or emotional punch at the end. I would say that anyone who is a fan of Ridley Scott films ("Alien", "Blade Runner", "1492" or even "White Squall") should see "The ! Duellists" to find where Scott gets his stunning and unique visual style. The supporting cast, mostly English, does a fine job: Tom Conti as d'Hubert's surgeon friend, Diana Quick as his lover, Robert Stephens as the general, and Albert Finney as a cunning commissar. I rate it a 9 for intellectual vigor and beautiful scenes. END