Ridley Scott’s Epic turns out to be a tedious & grandiose comedy

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It’s official – 2023 may be the year of the baby boy. From Mark Ruffalo in Poor thingsthe strange masterpiece of Yorgos Lanthimos, to Jacob Elordi as Elvis in Sofia Coppola Priscilla, several high-profile men have played real horror in movies this year. Joaquin Phoenix is ​​the latest name to be added to this list as he reunites with Ridley Scott for the director’s latest historical epic, Napoleon. The performance of Phoenix and Scott’s view of the high figure (in name only) is surprisingly funny, often tedious, and full of bloody battles that do not jump the sea. It’s a bold move from the director and, despite being completely uneven and a little messy, Napoleon it can still be a lot of fun.

Scott begins Napoleon while the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, is shackled, her head marching around a stage for all the spies to see. Napoleon Bonaparte enters soon after, eager to prove himself a capable military commander. We see the French push the British out of Toulon (with a brutal chest-bursting moment that can’t help but feel like an oddity if accidentally recalled. Alien) and Napoleon quickly rises through the military ranks and meets Vanessa Kirby’s Josephine. Although chyrons reveal who it is, however, Scott seems less concerned about leading viewers into that period (remember, he told those concerned about historical inaccuracy. “get a life”) what he does in setting the tone of the film. Unfortunately, it is not clear what tone he wants to take Napoleon vacillates between a kind of domestic comedy and a by-the-numbers biopic that tells the story of the whiny emperor of France.

Vanessa Kirby in Napoleon.

Without a doubt Kirby steals the show as Josephine both in what she does with the role and what she brings out in Phoenix. Napoleon and Josephine’s sparring leads to some of the film’s funniest moments, with Phoenix playing Napoleon as an authentic 19th-century Wife Guy, both miserably in love and, initially, humiliated with the feelings that Josephine brings out in him. This flows into Napoleon’s political movement, where Phoenix is ​​often a brutal power player as the history of great leaders reminds him. It is early in the film that we begin to see exactly how Scott treats the man in the middle – not with the dignity and care usually reserved for epics of this type but with a big eye roll.

The humor certainly brings some life into a film that often goes between battles and moments where Josephine and Napoleon share the screen. Although they feel very small, Scott’s battle scenes are very brutal. Austerlitz stands, the center that proves Napoleon’s battle prowess. However, even the director feels less concerned with the battles than with the man himself, however, painting a picture of an immature man who can’t help but succumb to his fascination with power , whether used stone cold. decisions during a battle, an irresponsible political movement, or evolving social conditions.

Vanessa Kirby and Joaquin Phoenix in Napoleon.

In a way, Phoenix’s performance is pitch-perfect. It wasn’t clear whether Scott would follow into the full Napoleon complex, but the director does just that, showing a disdain for the man who leads to hysteria as often as he does through- each other Inside Napoleon, it seems to be two films: one that falls into straightforward biopic conventions and another, an unconventional comedy about a man whose courage drives him to great heights where he is not sure , when he arrives, what exactly will he do. By the time Napoleon returns as an exile to take over France again, the film feels like it’s crumbling under his ambition, an appropriate feeling when Waterloo rolls around.

To say Napoleon A love story may sound strange, but in many ways, the film is driven by the conqueror’s misguided desire – for victory, for Josephine, for a male heir, and for France. It’s surprising in itself that France often loves it back, but Scott’s film doesn’t seem to say the same. He does not fill the image and he does not crucify it. Napoleon he does not even attempt to tell the history of France’s most turbulent period with any coherence. Instead, as the man himself, Napoleon It’s a confusing film, as provocative as it is split and as self-aware of its faults as Napoleon was blind to himself.

Napoleon releases in theaters on November 22. The film is 158 minutes long and is rated R for strong violence, some graphic images, sexual content and brief language.

Main publication date

  • Napoleon 2023 movie poster


    Release date:

    Ridley Scott

    Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Ben Miles, Ludivine Sagnier, Matthew Needham


    Running time:
    158 minutes

    Drama, Epic

    David Scarpa

    Apple, Scott Free Productions

    Apple TV+, Columbia Pictures

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