Napoleon Movie Review: Joaquin Phoenix Shines in ‘Napoleon,’ Yet the film Falls Short on Depth

Director Ridley Scott explores the three-decade odyssey of the renowned French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, whose enigmatic historical legacy persists. The film draws parallels between figures like Napoleon and Hitler, emphasizing their relentless pursuit of power, often blurring the boundaries of humanity. Scott’s direction provides a comprehensive glimpse into the life of a man who played a pivotal role in the French Revolution.

Napoleon Movie Story

In Scott’s biographical film, we encounter Napoleon Bonaparte in 1789, serving as a second-in-command military leader who is acutely aware of his own strength. Characterized by his egoism and insatiable thirst for power, Napoleon possesses a demeanor that exudes a ‘calm-in-the-storm’ quality, rendering him remarkably lethal. Scott’s 160-minute portrayal of the French military commander and ruler is punctuated with cinematically impressive moments, featuring well-choreographed battle and war scenes, some of which are graphic enough to provoke a flinch. However, the film falls short in eliciting emotional investment, as Napoleon’s leadership is prominently depicted, yet the underlying purpose and intent behind his actions remain unclear throughout the screenplay.

For viewers unfamiliar with the French Revolution, Ridley Scott ensures clarity by presenting a timeline through on-screen text. So, if you haven’t delved into your history lessons, worry not. In the film “Napoleon,” the emphasis is not solely on the battles but rather on Napoleon’s forward-thinking strategies during these wars. Additionally, the portrayal captures Napoleon’s transformation into an excessively self-absorbed leader.

Napoleon Star Cast

The movie also delves into Napoleon’s unwavering love for Marie Joseph, portrayed by Vanessa Kirby, a widowed aristocrat. Following his marriage to Josephine, Napoleon ascends to the throne as the Emperor of France, a culmination of numerous triumphs on the battlefield. Across three decades, the film follows Napoleon as he maneuvers through various roles. However, Ridley Scott provides only a panoramic glimpse of Napoleon and his relationships, leaving much to the viewer’s imagination.

While moments show Napoleon attempting to wipe away tears, the true spark behind this love remains elusive. The ambiguity surrounding Napoleon’s feelings for Josephine raises questions about whether it was genuine love.

What keeps “Napoleon” engaging is Ridley Scott’s adept handling of the screenplay. He seamlessly transitions between scenes of Napoleon on the battlefield and intimate moments at home with Josephine. The film’s chaos provides a reprieve from testosterone-fueled war visuals, offering a breathing space.

Joaquin Phoenix delivers a remarkable portrayal of Napoleon, evoking both flinches and applause. Vanessa Kirby graces every frame with her beauty. Notably, the film stands out in historical dramas as the dialect, impressions, and dubbing remain authentically aligned.

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