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The Duellists Reviews

Competent feature debut of director Ridley Scott, who would go on to make the popular science-fiction films ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER, THE DUELLISTS is a beautifully photographed adaptation of a Joseph Conrad story in which two officers in Napoleon's army, Carradine and Keitel, fall out and proceed to engage in an obsessive series of duels for the next 30 years. The film's outstanding beauty is not enough to compensate its slim story, which remains preoccupied with the duellists' insane obsession with military codes of conduct and personal honor. The leads are often remarkable, but neither of them seems quite fitting to a period setting. Therefore the burden of authenticity falls to those in supporting roles, including Finney as the Napoleonic head of the Paris police. Scott's approach to his material seems essentially a stylistic one; it imposes itself upon the story rather than visa-versa, giving an account of the Napoleonic wars that lacks passion and depth, despite the expert visuals.