Napoleon Review

REVIEW: Napoleon

Ridley Scott’s biopic Napoleon attempts to tell the story of Napoleon Bonaparte’s (Joaquin Phoenix) storied life. Napoleon rises to fame in France during the revolution and meets his love, Josephine (Vanessa Kirby). Josphine profoundly impacts his life and supports him through his eventual ascension as Emperor of France. The film speed runs through several years of Napoleon’s life, touching on his various military campaigns and wins, and lingering on his relationship with Josephine.

I think one of the best words to describe this biopic is whack. I do have to disclose that my degree is in History, and the time period featured was one of my focuses at university. The history was so off. Scott’s track record with historical accuracy is poor, but this was laughable. Firing on the pyramids in Egypt, really? Napoleon’s mommy issues? I get that some of these inclusions and embellishments were supposed to make the film more entertaining, but it failed. At least it didn’t mess up the crowning, my favourite event of Napoleon’s life.

Napoleon Review

Napoleon was portrayed much like the English political cartoons at the time: like he was a petulant child. The characterization was comical, and the non-battlefield scenes were so dull. The film even perpetuated the whole “Napoleon was short” myth by showing him on a step stool so he could look, then destroy a mummy.  Phoenix’s Napoleon was a variation of Commodus from Gladiator. That was all I could think about while watching his performance.

Napoleon Review

The thing I liked most was the battle scenes. Those scenes were the best, by far, and well worth the money spent to shoot them. There were also some historical inclusions that I liked as a history nerd. While he didn’t speak, General Dumas, father of author Alexandre Dumas, was in the film as was correct because he was a major General for Napoleon. From an art history perspective, Jacques-Louis David, the painter of portraits and events in Napoleon’s story, was also present, painting the infamous crowning. There were also times when Napoleon stuck poses featured in these paintings. Everything else, throw in the trash.

Honestly, this is the vapidest biopic I’ve ever watched. It’s disappointing because I expected a little more. After sitting through the two-plus-hour version of Napoleon, it’ll be a hard pass on the four-hour director’s cut. I know the director’s cut will probably provide more detail and focus on much glossed-over stuff, but I don’t care now. Other than that, this film is not worth the time.

Where to Watch

Napoleon | November 22, 2023 (United Kingdom) 6.7


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