Napoleon Review

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Plot: An epic that details the checkered rise and fall of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his wife, Josephine.

Film: Napoleon

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: David Scarpa

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim

“Napoleon," delves deep into history, tracing the titular character's journey from the frenzied chaos of the French Revolution through battlefields spanning Europe, Africa, and the catastrophic terrain of Russia. However, what's startling is the film's eccentric and occasionally humorously eccentric tone, deviating from expectations of refined craft and sheer spectacle to offer scenes from Napoleon’s personal life that were perhaps harder to watch than the scene where his horse was exploded by a cannonball.

The movie unfolds amidst Paris' violent upheaval, depicting the terror of the guillotine's fall as aristocrats meet their gory fate. Napoleon emerges, portrayed by the ever-brilliant Joaquin Phoenix, initially capitalizing on the chaos. Paul Barras, portrayed by Tahar Rahim, aids Napoleon's rise with aristocratic demeanor and political maneuvering. Enter Joséphine, Vanessa Kirby, a widow drawn to Napoleon's growing power despite unclear motivations beyond self-preservation and ambition.

The narrative diverges into two parallel threads, one following Napoleon's military campaigns and the other detailing his relationship with Joséphine. While battling adversaries, Napoleon's stature diminishes alongside his tumultuous relationship with Joséphine.

The war scenes, depicted with stunning visuals and visceral intensity, portray the chaos and horror of battlefields. Scott's masterful staging and use of massive human and equine casts vividly convey the frenzy, terror, and tragic waste of war. Despite Napoleon's military genius, the film focuses less on his prowess and more on his complex, unromanticized character. The only character who comes out of this film with their reputation intact is the Duke of Wellington, which feels a little cheap from a British director. 

Phoenix's portrayal depicts Napoleon as cruel, sulky and unappealing, it was hard to see why anyone would trust this man’s intentions. Scott challenged expectations with this take on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte and I learned things about him that truthfully; I wish I hadn’t.

Post a Comment

© The Northern Film Blog. Design by FCD.