Napoleon (2023)

Rated 15
In Cinemas
Spoiler Free

While I was awaiting Ridley Scott’s, Joaquin Phoenix led Napoleon with baited breath, my anticipation was tempered.

Firstly, The Guardian gave it five stars, a solid indicator that a fun film might be a turgid think-fest for pseuds instead. Secondly and more importantly, apparently Ridders wasn’t allowed his edit to be the theatrical release. The reason for this is obvious, given it sounds like a monotone reading of the Bible would have a faster run time, but worrying because Ol’ Rids has form for being a master of editing his own work.

As someone who self edits, I am in awe of this ability. Fuckcuntshitpisscock. Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven was average- but that was the cinema release; the Director’s cut vastly improved the film from a 6/10 to a very impressive 9/10 (for me).

I have every episode of the Sean Bean starring, Napoleonic War set, Sharpe on DVD and return to them every couple of years. I’ve been obsessed with the show since I was a child and still enjoy the swords and swoonery. That era’s weaponry, being as it was somewhere in between modern and medieval, is fascinating and terrifying. What I hoped for from Napoleon was a big screen, big budget version of Sharpe. What I was not expecting per se, was a history lesson.

Complaints about Napoleon’s rough and ready take on real life events are po-faced and in my opinion stupid. If you want total dedication to agreed fact, watch a documentary or read a book. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story, provided it isn’t bonkers, like Bonapart rocking Nike Air Max and inventing the iPod. On shoes though, as a short man who has been compared to Napoleon before (it was my behind my back nickname in my first proper job), I spent a lot of time fixated on how Joaquin Phoenix’s character’s stature is shown.

Air Max definitely weren’t around in the 18th Century, but I don’t know whether Cuban heels were, and Napoleon does seem to be wearing them in several scenes. He also gets visibly smaller as the film goes on and his power wanes. He is also getting older, and you lose height as that happens. Can’t wait for that treat.

I digress, because what I’m really here to tell you is that I loved Napoleon. Its bonkers romantic chicanery and mad, brutal action scenes laden with the kind of sneaky battle tactics Braveheart boasted (the Russians even wheel out the nut-job Kosaacs) make the two and a half hours fly by. There are some laughs and grand scale battles with eye catching cinematography. Napoleon really is superbly shot, some scenes with almost instantly iconic/unique.

There is also an admirable sense of humour which compliments Napoleon’s largely jaunty joie de Vivre. It isn’t silly, but neither is it a thinker of a film. Phoenix’s performance is hardly his most complex, but even with his semi-American accent he still fits the role perfectly. Ridders might not have got the edit he wanted, but if his cut comes and improves on what I saw in the cinema I will be blown away.

Bedsit it?

“Shall we vote?”

Oppenheimer is the technical best film this year, Thirteen Lives the most emotionally tense and Napoleon serves up the purest excitement. The battle of Waterloo was the most thrilled I've been in a long time in the cinema 10/10

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