Film Review: Napoleon 拿破崙(2023) USA UK 🇺🇸 🇬🇧
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia 🇦🇺)
Not many films can capture the entire career and life of probably one of greatest military genius ever in Napoleon Bonaparte. The general, the emperor and the lover forms the 3 hours running time, but the director Ridley Scott seems to be making a 6 hour film edited down for the theatre release. In saying that, there are plenty of moments that makes the film epic, namely the battle sequences and the numerous inspiring campaigns, but one thing is left behind that is the inner character beneath the great man. In terms of cinematic experience, Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” lacks the emotional punch and attachment required to be truly great.
Napoleon played by Joaquin Phoenix is at times, an odd casting at best. Phoenix is a naturally great character actor as seen in “Joker”, but here the likeliness is reduced to the famed hat and coat. Whilst charismatic, Napoleon is a different breed and requires someone similar to the far better portrayal in 1970s “Waterloo”. In that film, Rod Steiger use method acting to make the great man, simply sophisticatedly great and resembles the emperor with a distinct flair. However, Phoenix is often undermined with child plays and his interactions with lover and wife Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby in an uninspiring and two dimensional role as otherwise the “slut Queen”. Others in the ensemble cast is not allowed to shine through as the titled character gets the full three hour screen time, yet the film still feels every bit disjointed and chopped.
All in all, as a long time historian on the topic of Napoleon, I left the cinema with a bittersweet taste. Whilst, happy to witness the great genius on the big screen, the film adds nothing more what we already know. Clocking at 3 hours, the film achieve its goal of not being boring, but it feels hasty edited and inner characters left undefined. Scott is a brilliant director for epic films like these and Phoenix is known for carrying these kind of roles, but unfortunately both have seen better days and Napoleon until a longer version comes out, it’s not quite enough.
I rated it 7/10