Featuring: Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Rupert Everett
Genre: Action, Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, War
Director: Ridley Scott
In Cinemas: 22/11/23
Napoleon details the checkered rise and fall of the iconic French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his wife, Josephine.
Ridley Scott has directed some of the best sci-fi movies ever made. However, his consistency could have been better recently, with titles such as The Counsellor, Alien: Covenant, and House of Gucci not on level with his usual high standard. In Napoleon, Scott creatively depicts his dynamic version of the French emperor, which, on occasion, doesn’t seem to be entirely historically accurate, but it is always consistent. Joaquin Phoenix controversially decided to use his accent in this instead of putting on a French one, which surprisingly works after we become accustomed to it. From the opening twenty minutes, the character’s mannerisms are there, but it lacks dialogue when considering the narrative approach. But ultimately, the visuals are stunning and impactful, which helps the story effortlessly glide along without needing an explanation. This movie mainly shifts its attention and focus to the romantic relationship between Napoleon (Phoenix) and Josephine (Vanessa Kirby), and when it is covered, certain aspects are detailed flawlessly. The performances of our two leads are outstanding, and there is always that strong connection and chemistry between the two. When specific themes and questions are raised throughout the relationship, the film tends to drift away from the subject matter and never fully commits to something that has the potential to be intriguing.
Exciting and prominent elements are explored beautifully and carefully, even when they don’t work. Character development is always precise and indicative, but we unfortunately forget about it when the film shifts and constantly goes back and forth. So much information needs to be processed that it tends to compact a lot of critical situations into short blocks that require more attention and understanding. It always seems slow and drawn out at two hours and thirty-eight minutes runtime when that could have been avoided. So much eventful history must be explained, but the non-essential moments seemed irrelevant. The relationship always feels like this movie’s most essential and highlighted feature when it distracts and gives less valuable time to the standout and more favourable parts, like the epic cinematic battle scenes. These are always amazingly and beautifully shot and add and provide value to the theatrical experience. Napoleon’s personality and characteristics become more noticeable during the battle scenes because he lacks confidence from the film’s beginning. There are moments at the start when his decisions become visible and straining for him; we see his hand tremble in almost nervousness and worry. But, by the movie’s end, he develops this untouchable quality about himself, as if he cannot be broken.
Eventually, when we put aside the unnecessary subplots from the central core of the movie, the rise and fall of Napoleon is always expertly executed. There will be times when the battle scenes immediately revert back to more subtle mindset moments that cause that struggle to be challenging at times of interchanging emotional engagement. Some characters are entirely forgotten about in some instances when we first meet Josephine and her kids; the children are not even seen or spoken about for the rest of the movie. However, in parts, there are some slightly debatable subjective issues with Napoleon, but in contrast, the positive factors outweigh the negativity. This is one of the more memorable Ridley Scott features with a delightful score and vivid visual imagery. The lead-up to each battle sequence is always brutal and displayed honestly, creating that harsh, sudden realisation of the past. Animal lovers might have difficulty watching this, as it is not only the people who suffer. Joaquin Phoenix always has a modern approach, with a surprising element of dry, real humour. That audience members might appreciate his entertaining and humanistic personality, compared to an entirely different acting direction. The film focuses and leaves a lasting impression on his actions, not his demeanour. Napoleon thrives when those masterful and crafted battle scenes come to life in the most epic way possible.