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Napoleon (2023); A Movie Review

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Rupert Everett 

Director: Ridley Scott 

Synopsis: Joaquin Phoenix stars as the first consul and glorious emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte. This movie explores the battles and campaigns of Napoleon as well as his  ‘inappropriate’ endeavours with his wife, Josephine, portrayed by Vanessa Kirby. It contains a series of battle scenes and some other obscene oddities, all serving to showcase the life of the imperial genius. 

Joaquin Phoenix brings another well-portrayed role in this movie, no doubt.  Although more disappointing than his role as Caesar in Gladiator, he succeeds in twisting a garbage-written character into a somewhat decent performance. Not the same can be said for Kirby, who portrayed his wife. Her performance is execrable to the point where my eyes would refuse to process the abomination. Josephine would have such an unbearable moment to play and she would comply with the rubbish, making it all in all an awful role to watch. 

In addition, another loathful thing is the randomly occurring set of very graphic obscene scenes. You’re peacefully munching on your candy bar and watching a moderately compelling battle scene when, suddenly, you get flashed full with a salacious scene that you can’t unsee for the next ten minutes. It’s something appalling, really. I usually don’t mind these scenes if there’s a proper build-up previous to them, but here I vividly recall watching Napoleon strut among the pyramids when all of a sudden I get a scene hurled in my face that looks more like a pop-up ad on an illegal streaming website than a cinema movie. 

Furthering my dislike is the lack of substance. The scenes are well-filmed cinematographically, no doubt. The Austerlitz scene is one of the finest of all the battle scenes in any movie I’ve watched lately. However, one great scene doesn’t make up for ten rushed ones. Besides the complete lack of the battle of Marengo and Arcole, you barely get any Egypt Campaign and Borodino, as well as a tremendously rushed Waterloo. 

You get thrown into an image with some random howling and stomping around on horses, a thing which they deem a ‘scene’. It’s not a scene, it’s an excuse of one without any emphasis on Napoleon’s evil genius. As well as that, his relationship with Josephine is portrayed just as empty as the battles. Napoleon in this movie is portrayed as an honest pervert with a sick obsession. Sure, he was an evil genius, but a military one, not a vile seducer. Everything just scratched the surfaces; there was nothing really that they actually delved into. Absolutely nothing( we were also robbed of Robespierre’s execution but alas). 

Similarly, there were about a gazillion historical inaccuracies. From the fabrics of the women’s garments to Josephine dying from diphtheria when she actually died of pneumonia, this movie is littered with anachronisms and faults. Oh let me tell you! That gorgeous Austerlitz scene was a fake. The Austerlitz scene in the movie is a dramatic event in which the soldiers brutally fight on a huge icy lake which gets shot down with cannons. Guess what? Never happened. Never. The battle was fought around some small ponds but only a few soldiers actually drowned. Another Hollywood dramatisation. Moreover, the pyramid scene where the Napoleonic guys shoot the pyramids with cannons also never happened. There’s absolutely no evidence! I wish I could tell you how accurate this movie was and how you should go watch it but I can’t. It’s dreadful. I wish they would hire an actual historian for once so their movies wouldn’t be a flaming pile of inaccurate garbage. 

(Oh also when they were showing events from when Napoleon was 20 but he still looked 50. They couldn’t bother to put some makeup on Phoenix for the whole movie so he looked one step away from retirement). 

One reason why I recommend watching this movie although it is inaccurate; Tsar Alexander. I promise you, you will absolutely be jealous of his hair. Normally, at the time of the events he should’ve been thirty-six or something around that age, but he looks twenty in the movie. Still a good performance nevertheless! 

Well obviously, the movie was supposed to last five hours. There’s no way anyways to make a movie about Napoleon; only a series. He’s much too complex. Alas, the movie got trimmed so they could put it in cinemas for the Oscars running. Blame the Hollywood cash-grabbers for this rubbish. 

In conclusion, I’d give it a solid 4/10 because the performances were pretty good as well as the cinematography itself. Not too good, but could be somewhat worse. Still prefer the 1927 version though. 

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