Movie Review: ‘The Duelist’

Review by Bluray Junkies

The Duelist can rightly be called a Russian modern day classic. The plot is original but at the same time it feels like something out period piece literature, as Writer/Director Alexey Mizgirev gives us an enthralling story set in 1860 St Petersburg Russia.

Starring Pyotr Fyodorov as Yakolev who’s haunted by his dark and violent mysterious past as a Duelist. The film delivers from its hero to a ruthless antagonist, a romance with the daughter of an aristocrat to violent brutality and absolutely beautiful cinematography, which was also shot for IMAX screens. The Duelist has all the ingredients for a masterful film and the recipe works, for the most part. The story revolves around a retired officer Yakovlev, who has become a kind of mercenary for hire to stand in for others in the form of pistol duels and he is immortal, which is shown in the first scene. Later in the film there are flashbacks explaining what happened to him and the prediction that he would never die. Yakolev wins duel after duel killing each one of his opponents without fail. Later Yakolev discovers his duels are being secretly arranged by someone with grudges with his ultimate goal for Yakolev to duel Prince Tuchkov.

When Yakolev meets his sister Princess Martha and there’s an instant attraction between the too which causes problems especially when he reveals his mysterious past. Soon Yakovlev has a mission of his own, to find who wants the Prince dead. The Duelist is full of betrayal, conspiracies, brutal violence, sex, and vengeance all mixed together to create a suspenseful and dramatic film. The plot may first seem convoluted with one dimensional characters but it all comes full circle as pieces come together to reveal the whole picture.

What makes this film so intriguing is the parallels of American classics such as Shane, High Noon or The Man With No Name trilogy. Most notably the plots surrounding one man’s honor against the odds.
However this in no way feels like an imitation of those classic films. Director Alexey Mizgirev handles the material in a way that makes the film feel fresh especially with Maksim Osadchiy’s cinematography that is just gorgeous. The direction, cinematography and editing are carefully orchestrated throwing a story together with good performances, set pieces, locations and costumes that makes you feel as if you are there during 19th century Russia.

Overall some may feel the characters are one dimensional with an over polished story however the storylines are compelling with beautiful direction and cinematography and shot for IMAX makes the film completely worth seeing.

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