Ridley Scott’s Ambitious Historical Epic “Napoleon” Reveals Further Depth in Review

Joaquin Phoenix uses a spyglass while sitting on horseback in Napoleon.


Joaquin Phoenix in Napoleon

(Image credit scores: Sony Pictures/Apple)


Release Date: November 22, 2023 (Theaters) & TBD (Apple TELEVISION+)
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: David Scarpa
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Mark Bonnar, Rupert Everett, and Youssef Kerkour
Rating: R, for solid physical violence, some shocking pictures, sex-related material and quick language
Runtime: 158 mins

While its passions most definitely make it one worth absorbing on the cinema, completion result plainly has even more to reveal its target market. The result is a photo that really feels interesting and energised, however additionally insufficient when taking into consideration the large photo.

Roughly covering the years of 1793 to 1821, the motion picture observes Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix) going from climbing celebrity of the French armed forces to president, inevitably taking his location as a lonesome expatriation. Binding the tale in author David Scarpa’s movie script is 2 points: Napoleon’s passions for France and his legendary relationship with Josephine (Vanessa Kirby). 

At the very same time, one needs to ask if this motion picture would certainly have played much better without understanding that Sir Ridley Scott has an extensive cut currently in the jobs. Napoleon’s reasonably quick clip really feels a lot more noteworthy when maintaining in the rear of your mind that a 4.5 hour variation of this very same tale is allegedly mosting likely to get here on Apple TELEVISION+ in the future. With Killers of the Flower Moon running around 3.5 hours in cinemas currently, one might see that both filmmaker and workshop endangered on the issue; maybe in a quote for business success.

Napoleon still plays well at a little over 2.5 hours, consisting of some remarkable field of battle established items in addition to a consistent atmosphere of dark wit that’s happily unexpected. But once more, this isn’t Gladiator 1.5, as there’s a fair bit of unexpected focus positioned on a story that the majority of might not be anticipating to be the leading string in Joaquin Phoenix’s historic representation.

Audiences are bound to really feel a little a trickery as a result of the hefty focus on Napoleon and Josephine’s love.

It’s Napoleon and Josephine’s rough partnership that really seems like the bedrock of Ridley Scott and David Scarpa’s partnership. We’re presented to Vanessa Kirby’s Empress-to-Be quite swiftly, and we see her and Joaquin Phoenix autumn in with each various other equally as quickly. Were the trailers not full of cannon fire, discussions regarding the good of France, and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” blowing up as the soundtrack, this may not be an issue. 

Alas, this is probably mosting likely to be where target market assumptions and Napoleon’s truth clash one of the most. Again, the fights we do see are sensational, as cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, manufacturing developer Arthur Max, and outfit developer Janty Yates sign up with pressures for an aesthetic banquet that never ever slows down. But in-between natural and bloody fights that reveal soldiers in different states of chaos and physical maiming, there’s a pounding heart that’s offered even more value than we’ve been led to believe.

The good news on that front is that Napoleon does seem to be a nice compromise when it comes to date night, as the romantics and the military tacticians can share popcorn very easily with this one. The bad news is that if you don’t set your expectations accordingly, you might be scratching your head as to what exactly you’re supposed to take away from the sprawling epic you’ve just watched. Especially when there’s sequences accompanied by a blinding white transition that almost feel like a signal for where some extended passages of Napoleon’s narrative may be slotted back in. 

The visually stunning Napoleon seems bound to feel more complete in its already promised extended version.

Telling the story of Napoleon Bonaparte in a cinematic context has always been a daunting task. Legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick once poured a lot of time, budget, and energy into a script that’s still trying to find its way in front of cameras. With Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, the world sees that it can be done, provided you know which side of the French emperor’s life you’re supposed to pay attention to. 

It all circles back to the 4.5 hour cut that the filmmaker is supposed to provide to Apple TV+ at a later date. With the Kingdom of Heaven filmmaker seemingly working a miracle between the theatrical and extended cut of that particular project, judging Napoleon too harshly at this point feels a bit wrong. Then again, knowing that there’s already a version of this movie that’s poised to come off as the “complete” experience, and having that product not be the one in theaters, feels similarly improper. 

Napoleon may divide its audience when it comes to whether it’s a success waiting to happen or a failure that’s just waiting to be confirmed. While that particular debate is set to play out at a later date, the lush world that Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby’s performances take place in definitely deserves to be seen in theaters. 

Let’s hope that at some point the complete Napoleon experience has the same honor, as in its current state, it’s a confusing mix of too much and too little. Ridley Scott was definitely cooking with this project, and it’s a shame that we have actually been fed an appetiser instead of the main dish.


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