Napoleon Review: Of Love Letters, Wars and Disgruntled Grumps

Deepanjana Pal

It’s Tempting To Suggest

Director Ridley Scott’s decision to tell the story of Napoleon Bonaparte using short fragments is a tongue-in-cheek salute to the one-time French emperor’s physical stature.

Factual Accuracy

This scrap of factual accuracy might just be a coincidence. For the better part of Napoleon, Scott is not bothered by prosaic things like historical record, despite the regular captions that inform us of years and locations.

Reimagining Napoleon and Josephine

Then there is the fiction, like Joaquin Phoenix, fixed in the amber of his late-40s, playing Napoleon from the ages of 24 to 51. Or Vanessa Kirby, 35, who is charismatic enough as Josephine to make you turn a blind eye to facts.

Joaquin And Vanessa

Despite two powerhouse performers delivering compelling performances, Napoleon and Josephine’s relationship rarely feels either coherent or poignant. There are only fragmentary moments that crackle with electricity.

Jump, Cut, Stitch

Had Scott been interested in Josephine’s perspective, maybe this fictional love story would have come across as poignant and conflicting. Unfortunately, Scott has little interest in interiority and this is not just true of Josephine.

Better As a Series, Than a Film

Despite the excellent battle scenes, which make majestic use of the big screen, the film leaves one with little sense of what made Bonaparte a military genius and there is no mention at all of any of his actual contributions to French polity.