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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Napoleon (2023)

Not the biopic I was expecting, really. Not standing on ceremony, Scott decides to drop us into the life of the Frenchman on the cusp of real notoriety and his first meeting with wife-to-be, saucy minx Josephine.

Unsurprisingly maybe, I had initial visions of Gladiator and the story of another great leader of men with the same grand, sweeping scale. I don't think we lay the can lay the blame of the complete lack of that at the feet of the talent. Phoenix is playing this as directed, but I question how rounded this Napoleon really is, trying to command respect and still be an often uncomfortable, paranoid over-thinker with alarmingly effective military tactical abilites, at least as good in battle as he struggled in politics.

Vanessa Kirby, given a bit more screen time could easily have stolen the show altogether and was magnetic as Josephine, who would rightfully have no respect for her husband. You could accuse her infidelity for that reason alone, if she didn't already have pre-marital form for it. Even Napoleon was heard to call his own wife a 'slut' in polite company, after all.

Glorious to look at and you would expect nothing less from the great man who does indeed enjoy a good ruck in the mud, given the opportunity, which he has in spades here. At two and a half hours, you do get the feeling that this was a little too rushed, however, to really get swallowed by the life of the man. Certainly watchable, but this won't have you cinematically dribbling, something he achieved so often in the past.


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