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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Alex Reviews "Napoleon"

“I am sometimes a fox and sometimes a lion. The whole secret of government lies in knowing when to be the one or the other.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Opening with the eruption of the French revolution, Napoleon follows the life of an artillery soldier who would become both emperor and legend the level of which that any person would know just from the first name. A character study on a grander scale than has ever been undertook…70 mm.

When it comes to gritty, violent history, nobody executes on the level of Ridley Scott. It does not matter if it is Ancient Rome (Gladiator), the Crusades (Kingdom of Heaven), or recent conflicts (Black Hawk Down), he just knows who to make war cinematic and enthralling. It is interesting to see in Napoleon how the physical battles are balanced with those waged in political arenas and even social situations, as it felt like the quickest 2-and-a-half-hour movie I have experienced. It is almost as if a longer miniseries was condensed to a singular film, but that is less surprising with the director stating that there will be a four-hour director’s cut. Honestly, I’m looking forward to that as much or more than I was excited about this version. It was expected to be a good picture, but the visuals alone are worth the admission, and I am excited to see many of the wide shots again in 70 mm.

The only thing that could compete with the beauty of the film, would be the layered and multi-faceted performances by the lead actors.

Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible series) never fails to deliver a captivating performance no matter the role or material with which to inspire. Her ability to disappear into the role of Josephine in every period of the character’s life was mesmerizing. I don’t know that any other actress could have pulled off the range Napoleon required of her both emotionally and in physical presentation.

Not to be outdone, Joaquin Phoenix is the living embodiment of what it means for a thespian to “just go for it” and his titular role is no different. Whether it be as a brutal general willing to commit atrocities to accomplish his goals or as the obsessed devotee to his empress. Regardless of the scene, it is impossible to deny Phoenix’s commitment and delivery as spectacular. Small choices in expression or in motion present little details to enhance every moment in every scene.

Despite the excellent direction and acting in the picture, the film has two minor drawbacks for me. First, while the music used was decent enough, it kept the film being elevated the way Scott’s pictures have been in the past by utilizing a talent such as Hans Zimmer. Martin Phipps (Peaky Blinders) has done some very impressive work in the past, but this was not a great effort. Last and possibly more damning, a complete lack of a continuity director. There are at least a handful of moments that I noticed an error either in wardrobe or positioning. That being said, both are nitpicky items within a gorgeous movie.

I highly recommend treating this the same as any movie that you’d consider an escape from reality, despite its very real subject matter. It is beautiful and the performances are stellar. See the 70 mm cut if you can on November 22nd and look for the director’s cut coming later to Apple TV+. I most definitely will be doing both.

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