Napoleon (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir: Ridley Scott, US/UK 2023, 160 mins.

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Rupert Everett, Paul Rhys, Ben Miles,

Review by Carlie Newman

Ridley Scott has directed a film which has magnificently filmed battle scenes and elaborately staged indoor events. Going for that which will have the most impact, Scott dispenses with historical accuracy for much of the time and chooses to show Napoleon’s rise to power and his love-story with Josephine in his own unique way.

In this version, which begins in 1793, Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix) watches Marie Antoinette being beheaded. The revolutionary leader, Paul Barras (Tahar Rahim) puts Napoleon in charge of the siege of Toulon. Successful in this, Napoleon goes on to win many other battles.

He meets and falls madly in love with Josephine de Beauharnais (Vanessa Kirby). She is in love with him, too, but is a highly sexual woman and has affairs with others, even after they are married. At one point, Napoleon abandons a battle to rush home and confront Josephine who he has learnt is unfaithful to him.

The Pope crowns Napoleon Emperor of the French in 1804, making his wife Empress Josephine. They have no children and Napoleon is desperate for a child. His mother makes him get a young woman pregnant which proves Josephine is infertile, so he divorces her in 1810. They remain close friends even after he marries Marie Louise of Austria who gives him his longed-for son in 1812.

Napoleon is forced to abdicate and sent into exile in Elba after losing half a million men in Russia. When he hears Josephine is ill Napoleon returns to France in 1815 and seizes power once again. Sadly, Josephine dies before he arrives. Later we have the Battle of Waterloo…

Scott has chosen Joaquin Phoenix to play Napoleon. While he looks good, Phoenix doesn’t really age nor does he do a lot with his face to portray different emotions. However, his looks suit the bicorne hat which is identified with Bonaparte! He and Kirby show the erotic charge between them. She is particularly good in the role of the |Empress and could well be up for an award or two.

The photography throughout is tremendous and Scott’s choice of shots is always right on the ball.

You are urged to see this spectacular movie on the largest screen you can find.