Original title:Napoleon
Director: Ridley Scott
Running time:157 minutes
Release date:22 november 2023
A spectacular fresco, Napoleon follows the rise and fall of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The film traces Bonaparte's relentless conquest of power through the prism of his passionate and tormented relationship with Josephine, the great love of his life. Author of memorable epics, Ridley Scott evokes Napoleon's military genius and political strategies, while staging some of the most impressive battle sequences ever filmed.

Mulder's Review

Ridley Scott's latest opus, Napoleon, is a bold, sprawling epic that seeks to encapsulate the tumultuous life and times of the enigmatic French emperor, played with magnetic intensity by Joaquin Phoenix. The film unfolds over two decades, offering a grand tapestry that interweaves ambition, battle and love. While Scott's ambition is laudable, Napoleon faces pacing problems as it strives to cover Napoleon's entire military and political career, sometimes feeling like a condensed version of a longer narrative.

Joaquin Phoenix leads the charge with a captivating performance that brings Napoleon to life as a force of nature - immovable, arrogant and dissatisfied by the end. Scott's measured approach avoids the pitfalls of glorification, presenting Napoleon as a complex character driven by indomitable ambition. Phoenix skilfully conceals the emperor's inner world, showing a man fearful of vulnerability and determined to hide his weaknesses.

The film introduces Vanessa Kirby as Josephine, Napoleon's love interest, whose performance adds layers of depth to the story. Their relationship is depicted as a delightful battle of equals, with Kirby teasing, mocking and firmly opposing Napoleon's intimidating attitude. The chemistry between Phoenix and Kirby enriches the film, especially as the relationship between their characters deepens over the years.

Production design, costumes and visual effects contribute to the film's sumptuousness, creating a sumptuous backdrop for the historical drama. Scott's directorial prowess takes audiences to the heart of Napoleon's legendary battles, offering a unique perspective on his strategic genius. The battle scenes, particularly the triumph of Austerlitz, are staged with exceptional insight, highlighting not only military prowess, but also revealing aspects of Napoleon's character.

While the film admirably refuses to pass judgment on its central character, it does not hesitate to acknowledge Napoleon's shortcomings. Joaquin Phoenix conveys the emperor's unfulfilled desires and restless despair through subtle gestures, using melancholy eyes and pinched smiles. The film maintains a striking resignation throughout, emphasizing that Napoleon's quest for power and love was, in many ways, unrequited.

However, Napoleon faces pacing problems due to its ambitious scope. Covering Napoleon's entire military and political career, the film sometimes feels like a condensed version of a longer narrative. Despite this, the engaging dynamics between the central characters, particularly in the moments of romance and war, keep the audience invested.

In the supporting roles, Rupert Everett's portrayal of the Duke of Wellington adds a touch of self-deprecating British humor. The film culminates in the long-awaited battlefield encounter between Wellington and Napoleon, offering a satisfying conclusion to their cinematic rivalry. Scott injects humor and levity into these interactions, allowing audiences to revel in this historic clash of titans.

Napoleon is a sumptuous, thoughtful drama that offers a fresh perspective on a giant of history. Ridley Scott's fine direction, combined with Joaquin Phoenix's convincing performance and Vanessa Kirby's strong presence, elevate the film beyond a conventional biopic. Though not without its flaws, Napoleon succeeds in offering a captivating, nuanced exploration of a man whose ambition shaped the course of history. By exploring the complexities of power and love, the film leaves an indelible mark, inviting audiences to ponder the uncharted territories of Napoleon's psyche and the enduring mysteries of the human condition.

Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by David Scarpa
Produced by Ridley Scott, Kevin J. Walsh, Mark Huffam, Joaquin Phoenix
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby
Cinematography : Dariusz Wolski
Edited by Claire Simpson, Sam Restivo
Music by Martin Phipps
Production companies : Apple Studios, Scott Free Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures (through Sony Pictures Releasing), Apple Original Films (through Apple TV+)
Release dates : November 14, 2023 (Salle Pleyel), November 22, 2023 (United States and United Kingdom)
Running time : 157 minutes

Viewed on November 14, 2023

Mulder's Mark: