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'Napoleon' Review: France's Greatest Emperor Hits the Big Screen


Courtesy of Apple Studios


Napoleon is the latest Ridley Scott historical epic. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as France's greatest emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. This is Scott and Phoenix's first time working together since the legendary film Gladiator. Napoleon tells the story of his rise to power and eventually becoming the emperor of France. It also shows what a brilliant man he was and how he won so many battles as both General and Emperor of France. With such high expectations and an even higher budget, does Napoleon live up to the hype? Let's break it down.


Napoleon shows the meteoric rise of the one of the greatest emperors the world has ever seen. The film gives you a real sense of what Napoleon was actually like. Joaquin Phoenix who plays Napoleon, does a great job of bringing the mythical character to life. Phoenix portrays Napoleon as man who's always a step ahead of his adversaries. Not to be outshined, Vanessa Kirby who plays Napoleon's wife Josephine, does an excellent job as well. Josephine is a strong woman who supports Napoleon but also puts him in his place. Their relationship dynamic is interesting. Some moments they truly love each other. Other moments, it's like watching your parents argue. Their relationship is one of the best parts of this film.


The cinematography of Napoleon is absolutely breathtaking. As I was watching the film, I was saying to myself "wow that is a gorgeous shot." The locations that were picked for the battle scenes were great. Speaking of the battle scenes, the battles were well done but not as intense as I thought it would be. The battles did show how amazing Naploeon at strategizing. It also showed how good he was at talking to other leaders. Napoleon was a well spoken man who knew when to antagonize his adversaries and when to work together with other leaders. Seeing Napoleon in these situations was definitely an exciting part of the film.


Napoleon suffers from too much content to cover. Some scenes felt like they were rushed because they had to move on to another important moment in Napoleon's timeline. There was one scene where the film moved 5 years in 5 minutes. The timeline moves quickly and it's tough to follow sometimes. I'm sure they did this to keep the runtime down but I believe Napoleon needed to be a longer film. There are rumors of a 4 hour director's cut heading to Apple TV so it will be interesting to see how different Ridley Scott's cut is from the original film.


Napoleon is not the historical epic the film promises it to be. But, it is a solid film with good acting and good action. Honestly, it's a film you will forget about as soon as you watch it. It doesn't have that special quality to it that makes certain films great. It's missing the epic feeling that other historical dramas. There's not special moment in the film that makes you think this is a great film. It makes you forget about it and with a man like Napoleon, that should not be the case. But, Napoleon is certainly not a bad film. It just leaves you expecting more especially from the combination of Ridley Scott and Joaquin Phoenix.


Grade: B-


What did you think of Napoleon? Leave your opinion in the comments below.

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