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The Duellists Review

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Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel are officers in Napoleon's army who confront each other in a series of increasingly violent duels, which begin with a minor incident but escalate over the course of 30 years into an all-consuming passion that rules, and ultimately ruins, the lives of both men.

★★★★

Ridley Scott's award-winning first feature had long been unavailable on video before it received a cut-price VHS release that did the film no favours at all. Thankfully, the ravishing transfer on this DVD edition, released on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, more than compensates.

Heavily influenced by Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, the film is loosely inspired by Joseph Conrad's short story The Duel. Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel are officers in Napoleon's army who confront each other in a series of increasingly violent duels, which begin with a minor incident but escalate over the course of 30 years into an all-consuming passion that rules, and ultimately ruins, the lives of both men.

The story sounds flimsy, but the richness of Scott's visuals, the excellence of the performances (Albert Finney, Edward Fox, Tom Conti and Robert Stephens are among the supporting cast) and depth of the themes - masculine pride and obsession masquerading as honour - combine to make the movie a minor masterpiece.

The richness of Scott's visuals, the excellence of the performances and the depth of the themes combine to make a minor masterpiece.