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.
FULL SPOILER-FREE REVIEW @ https://fandomwire.com/napoleon-review-a-dispassionate-hollow-spectacle/ "Napoleon contributes to a troubling trend in cinema, transforming significant historical narratives into hollow spectacles driven by mere visual entertainment. Despite compelling performances and visually stunning battle set pieces, Ridley Scott fails to control the shockingly inconsistent tone, leading to abrupt shifts between heavy drama and spontaneous comedy. The dispassionate treatment of the millions who suffered through Napoleon's acts testifies to the dissonant messages of the movie, which ends with an unclear feeling about the status of its protagonist. Too much creative liberty leads to absurd historical inaccuracies, including a questionable lack of French accents and actors. Despite efficient pacing, the 157-minute runtime surprisingly feels rushed, but I don't believe the rumored four-hour cut will fix so many massive problems..." Rating: C-
I think this is one of those films, like his "Kingdom of Heaven" (2005) epic that Sir Ridley Scott has made for aficionados of grand scale historical cinema, not for historians. Indeed it may well be that for this film, the less you actually know about the subject the more you might enjoy it. We start with the demise of Marie Antoinette and see Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix) watching from the baying crowd. He's a relatively junior officer but an aspirational one who manages to sell a plan to relieve the British occupied city of Toulon to his boss Barras (Tahar Rahim). This success sets him on a parabola that sees him rise, his falling in/out/in of love with the charismatic Josephine (Vanessa Kirby) and his overwhelming desire for European domination. The narrative clearly illustrates the fickleness of dynastic politics, trust and betrayal, love, lust and shrieking hypocrisy in a colourful and vibrant fashion. I didn't love Phoenix in this role, but maybe because Rod Steiger was so convincing in "Waterloo" (1970) that at times he looked a little like a mimic. That said, though, he puts his heart and soul into the role and the increasingly toxic dynamic with Kirby manages to stay on the right side of melodrama throughout. Again, as with Sir Ridley's tale of Jerusalem from eighteen years ago, he manages to pull off some spectacular battle scenes and the cinematography captures well the hostile environments - human and natural - faced by the soldiers as his empire building rose and fell. Although it's over 2½ hours long, I felt the focus was rather imbalanced. A long time spent on his rise to power then his decline and fall rather rushed. Dare I say it, but this might have worked better as a part one and a part two scenario. It looks stunning and the creative forces behind the costumes and visual effects are bound to be picking up a slew of gongs in due course. The acting, well that's less impressive and though I do enjoy the genre, I fear this may just end up being famed for some historical inaccuracies rather than being for an outstanding biopic of one of the world's most enigmatic and flawed megalomaniacs.