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The Last Duel: The 6 Smartest Characters, Ranked | ScreenRant

If there's one thing that's clear in Ridley Scott's historical epic The Last Duelit was that in order to make the most of 14th century feudal France, it was better to be a man. Women, no matter if they were of noble birth like Jodie Comer's Marguerite de Thibouville, were still the property of their male guardians, and if some other entitled lothario assaulted them (like Adam Driver's Jacques le Gris), their only hope at innocence was if their husband (Matt Damon's Jean de Carrouges) avenged them. Not for their honor, as it turned out, but in order to repair the damage done to their reputation.

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Navigating the institutional power and the abuse of women that were so intertwined at the time was no easy task, but Marguerite (as well as her mother-in-law) was adept at it. In a movie with a small, close-knit cast told from three separate perspectives about one cataclysmic incident, the smartest characters change considerably depending on the narrator.

6 Jean de Carrouges

A war-hardened knight that spends 40 years fighting for king and country, Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) might have been a brave soldier, but if the opening battle scene is any indication, not an incredibly intelligent one. He doesn't hold the line when opposing forces were baiting him away from a strategic position he should defend, he sues his lord multiple times for land he no longer has any claim to, and he complains about his lack of wealth when he never bothers to collect dues from his tenants.

While most knight movies show warriors who are selfless and gallant, Carrouges is not of that ilk. He thinks that he knows better than everyone around him including his king, his lord, his friends, his mother, and his wife. He seems to survive by dumb luck, or le Gris pleading his case to Count Pierre. He continuously makes one irrational decision after another completely guided by his emotions, without a single thought to the long-term repercussions of his actions.

5 Sir Robert de Thibouville

Marguerite's father and Jean de Carrouge's father-in-law, Sir Robert de Thibouville (Nathaniel Parker) is a sensible man, if not an overspender. He couples Carrouges to his daughter because of the bride price he offers and to settle his debts with Count Pierre. He ends up needing to give Count Pierre his most fertile and profitable land ownings to wipe away his poor accounts, an act which upsets Carrouges but saves de Thibouville's reputation (and remaining estate).

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De Thibouville behaves as astutely as he can, within the parameters of his social station and of 14th-century feudal French society. He considers long-term plans while making short-term goals, and maintains his standing in court despite being formerly disgraced, which is more than can be said for the pugnacious de Carrouges.

4 Nicole de Buchard

The mother of Jean de Carrouges, Lady de Buchard (Harriet Walter) has led a life of careful equilibrium, maintaining a level of regard within the courts that ensures she keeps her good name and station even after her respected husband passes away. She tries to encourage her son to act responsibly in court so that he can gain favor with the nobles but he frequently dismisses her advice.

While some may disagree with her decisions to conform to a 14th-century view of femininity and subservience, she does so as a means of practicality and survival. Though she doesn't enjoy an amicable relationship with his wife, her brusque remarks are often born from a desire to see Margeurite succeed in her position as a wife and mother.

3 Jacques les Gris

A formidable squire and a linguist, Jacques les Gris (Adam Driver) is a man of many talents. Without wealth or a noble house, he makes his way fighting in campaigns for money but soon learns that more wealth can be gained by being useful to important people at court. He becomes the favorite of Count Pierre, who admires his oratory skills and acquires land holdings and funding without having to go to war and becomes increasingly penniless like Jean de Carrouges.

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Les Gris's ability to manipulate a given situation to his benefit allows him to succeed in ways that his friend-turned-nemesis de Carrouges cannot. An opportunist (in every sense of the word), he thinks through multiple possibilities to a single event. This is how he can deftly time when to enter de Carrouges' home to assault his wife, while later at the Court of Justice assert he couldn't possibly have been anywhere near the estate since it's separated from his by over 25 miles.

2 Marguerite de Thibouville

When her husband leaves for a new war campaign, Margeurite assumes the responsibility of the estate, including making collections, overseeing the plowing of fields, and seeing to the care of the breeding mares. When the oxen can't plow fast enough, she worries the estate will starve before winter and uses the horses to speed up the task.

Besides being able to capably run her husband's estate, she speaks several languages and reads extensively. While her choice to pursue justice for herself does --by her own admission-- seem like a lost cause if it will result in her death and her child being made an orphan, she wisely doesn't show weakness in front of Count Pierre, the Court of Justice, the King, or her mother-in-law, and the courage of her convictions pay off when she's exonerated. She becomes, in her own way, a period-specific feminist icon.

1 Count Pierre d'Alençon

Count Pierre d'Alençon (Ben Affleck) might come across as a debaucherous letch given his wild orgies and salacious behavior, but make no mistake, his behavior belies a sharp mind. He knew his accounts were in disarray, so he hired le Gris to attend to them in more ways than one, from performing the appropriately violent collections, to keeping an accurate ledger of his wealth.

A hallmark of intelligence is knowing you don't know everything, so Pierre securing the best person to keep him solvent is an indication that his ego didn't get in the way of his decision-making. Even as the repercussions of le Gris' actions threaten to affect Pierre, he expertly operates within the parameters of the church, the state, and local politics to position himself away from any aspersions.

NEXT: The 10 Smartest Characters In Reminiscence

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