Napoleon’ Review: A Lumpy, Grumpy Little Man – Unveiling Ridley Scott’s Epic Masterpiece

‘Napoleon’ Review:

In the realm of historical epics, few filmmakers can rival Ridley Scott’s grand vision and larger-than-life storytelling. With films like “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” Scott has established himself as a master of monumentally scaled sagas.

And now, with his latest spectacle, “Napoleon,” he takes us on a captivating journey through the tumultuous life of the French emperor. In this review, we delve into the world of “Napoleon,” a movie that surprises with its eccentricity and mesmerizes with its performances.

A Heavy Metal Guy Playing with Giant Train Sets

When Orson Welles likened movies to the best electric train set a boy could have, he unknowingly left a defining inspiration for Ridley Scott. Just as a young boy would marvel at his toy trains, Scott plays with the biggest train sets conceivable in his films.

In “Napoleon,” he takes this metaphor to new heights, creating giant, beautiful, gleaming machines that transport and overwhelm the audience. He’s a heavy metal guy who knows how to make an impact.

A Very Big Movie with Eccentricity and Humor

As expected, “Napoleon” is a very big movie, spanning from the bloody delirium of the French Revolution to battlefields across Europe, Africa, and ultimately, Russia. But what surprises even more is the movie’s eccentricity and its ability to infuse humor into the narrative.

Scott’s refined craft and technique deliver the pleasures of spectacle filmmaking at its most expansive. However, instead of just heft and seriousness, “Napoleon” invites snort-out-loud moments of humor. As Karl Marx once stated, history can be both tragedy and farce, and this movie embodies that sentiment.

From the Terror to Toulon: Napoleon’s Rise to Power

The movie opens amidst the convulsion of violence known as the Terror, with surging crowds and the ominous sound of the guillotine blade. It is in this chaotic environment that Napoleon Bonaparte, portrayed with mesmerizing eccentricity by Joaquin Phoenix, rises to power.

From the streets of Paris to the southern French port city of Toulon, Napoleon strategically outwits his enemies and establishes his early dominance. With bold imagery and brusque narrative economy, Scott vividly captures the historical moment, showcasing both the corridors of power and the anarchy of the streets.

The Enigmatic Joséphine: Love and Power

Enter Joséphine, played by the talented Vanessa Kirby, and the movie takes a fascinating turn. As a widow who has endured the horrors of prison, Joséphine catches Napoleon’s attention with her charm and charisma. Despite her own vulnerabilities, she sees in Napoleon a growing reputation and a path to power.

The relationship between Napoleon and Joséphine becomes a central plotline, intertwining with the military campaigns that define Napoleon’s reign. It’s a dual narrative structure that brings together adventure and romance in a unique and captivating way.

Unconventional Storytelling and Startling Performances

In “Napoleon,” Ridley Scott deviates from the conventions of mainstream historical epics. Instead of presenting a romanticized version of the title character, the movie portrays Napoleon as an enigmatic and often petulant figure.

Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal captures the essence of this complicated man, with his scowls and consuming needs. The result is an unnervingly familiar character, whose cruelty and pathological vanity leave a lasting impression.

Extraordinary War Scenes and Overwhelming Realism

The war scenes in “Napoleon” are nothing short of extraordinary. Ridley Scott’s masterful direction brings to life the frenzied intensity of battle, with cannon blasts, smoke, and armies thundering towards their deaths.

The scale of these battles is tremendous, and the use of human actors and horses adds to the visceral power of the scenes. However, amidst the chaos and destruction, Scott never loses sight of the underlying tragedy and waste of war. By highlighting the absolute futility of it all, he challenges the glorification of Napoleon’s military genius.

A Surprising and Unromanticized Epic

“Napoleon” is consistently surprising, defying expectations of a conventional historical epic. Ridley Scott’s vision stands out with its unromanticized portrayal of the title character and its refusal to conform to historical conventions.

While the movie may deviate from the historical record at times, it remains a thought-provoking exploration of power, love, and the human condition. By the end of the film, you will be left with a deep appreciation for Scott’s audacious storytelling and the unforgettable performances that bring this epic to life.