Film review: Napoleon starring Joaquin Phoenix

“Napoleon” – a biopic, a movie epic, or an epic movie? It’s all of these things in a cinematic march through history. As I settled into the cinema seat for Ridley Scott’s latest directorial venture, “Napoleon,” I found myself drawn into the riveting tale of ambition, love, and the complexities of power. The film, set to be released on 22 November, boasts a star-studded cast, with Joaquin Phoenix taking on the formidable role of the French military commander.

Napoleon quote London mums magazine collage

A patriot’s love story

The film masterfully explores Napoleon’s dual identity as a patriot deeply in love with his country and a man who, against the norms of his time, profoundly loved his wife, Josephine. Phoenix’s portrayal of Napoleon is nothing short of stunning, delving into the character with a Method acting approach that immerses the audience in the French emperor’s psyche. His performance, reminiscent of his Oscar-worthy role in “Joker,” solidifies Phoenix’s versatility across genres and eras.


The trailer

War as a metaphor

While war may not be my preferred cinematic theme, “Napoleon” provides a lens through which we can reflect on the futility of conflict. In a contemporary world where wars seem obsolete, the movie serves as a metaphor for current global dynamics. Scott’s direction skilfully presents spectacular battle scenes that, despite their grandiosity, maintain clarity and coherence.

Napoleon quote London mums magazine collage

A love for the ages

Phoenix’s Napoleon navigates not only the battlefield but also the intricacies of love. The film introduces Vanessa Kirby as Josephine, a widowed aristocrat who captivates Napoleon from their first meeting. The chemistry between Phoenix and Kirby adds depth to the narrative, portraying Napoleon not just as a military genius but as a complex individual entangled in the web of love and power.


Historical Epic or Napoleon Lite?

Scott’s “Napoleon” unfolds as a proper historical epic, with breathtaking visuals, elaborate period costumes, and thunderous battle scenes. However, the film occasionally falls short in providing insights into Napoleon’s motivations and the geopolitical context surrounding him. While entertaining, the narrative lacks a deeper exploration of the protagonist’s desires and the political intricacies that shaped his decisions.

Napoleon fashion movie collage

Every photograph in this movie is like a painting carefully reconstructed from fashion, backdrops, hairstyle, hats


British Talent in Napoleon

Adding to the allure of “Napoleon” are notable British actors, including Rupert Everett playing the Duke of Wellington, Vanessa Kirby, who viewers may recognise from her role as Princess Margaret in Netflix’s “The Crown” series, Paul Rhys, known for portraying Butler in “Saltburn,” and as the limping and scheming Foreign Minister Talleyrand in “Napoleon.”


The Director’s Cut Promise

The anticipation for a four-and-a-half-hour director’s cut, announced by Ridley Scott, hints at a more comprehensive exploration of Napoleon’s life. The current version, though impressive, feels like a glimpse into a potentially richer and deeper film.


A Grand Cavalry charge

Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” stands as an outrageously enjoyable cavalry charge of a movie, filled with action, spectacle, and Phoenix’s compelling portrayal. The film cleverly balances historical accuracy with cinematic flair, presenting Napoleon not only as a military tactician but also as a satirical mastermind and lover.


London Mums’ rating

“Napoleon” earns a London Mums’ rating of 8/10, primarily attributed to Joaquin Phoenix’s stellar performance, the visual grandeur, and the film’s overall entertainment value. As we witness the triumphant march of masculinity and love unfold on screen, Ridley Scott’s latest endeavour becomes a cinematic journey through the pages of history.

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