Two prideful soldiers face each other in a number of
duels over the course of a decade in Napoleonic France.
The Duellists (1977)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Gerald Vaughan-Hughes
Starring Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Albert Finney,
Cristina Raines, Edward Fox, Robert Stephens, Diana Quick
Based on the short story "The Duel" by Joseph Conrad
The Duellists is Ridley Scott's directorial debut, which he would follow two years later with his masterpiece, Alien. Directorial debuts are tricky sometimes. If it's a director whose work you're already familiar with, you hope to see the budding genius that's to come. But this is also the work of a novice (at the time). Sometimes the benefit of the doubt is necessary. I mention all this because The Duellists is an interesting film, but not necessarily a very good one. The script is pretty lousy, with the duels being the only engaging part of the film. Overall, it's remarkably unremarkable.
In Napoleonic France, a perceived slight by Armand d'Hubert (Carradine) towards Gabriel Feraud (Keitel) leads to a decade-long rivalry. Feraud is prideful and insane, and is constantly challenging d'Hubert to random duels to avenge his own wounded honor. d'Hubert just wants this guy to leave him alone, but his own honor compels him to answer the call every time. Keitel does a decent job, but Carradine is woefully miscast. His delivery is so damn stilted, and I never once believed he was a French soldier. Still, Ridley Scott's eye is unmistakable. He's a masterful director who can do a lot with very little.
As I said, The Duellists is Scott's debut as a film director, so it's not going to be perfect. He had a very limited budget and was only allowed to cast from a super small pool provided to him by the studio. With that in mind, this could've been so much worse. Regardless, it commits the cardinal sin a movie can commit. It's just so damn boring.