Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Youssef Kerkour, Matthew Needham, Ben Miles, Anna Mawn, and Mark Bonnar
Director: Ridley Scott
There are a laughable amount of times throughout Napoleon when the titular figure (Joaquin Phoenix) waves his hands, covers his ears, and fires upon unsuspecting enemies. That’s what I imagine director Ridley Scott did when he shot one uninteresting political spat after arbitrary military battle after childish lovers’ quarrel. Maybe the point was to utilize the movie’s throughline, namely the French General’s longtime love of Josephine (a forceful Vanessa Kirby), to highlight his petulance and carelessness, but it also made the film tedious and facetious. If I wanted to watch a frivolous retelling of history, I would’ve watched an episode of Drunk History.
“A watched pot never boils” - Taunting Grandma. I guess it was my fault for wearing my watch to Napoleon, but the film was simply a slog. Its faults don’t lie in the amazing performances or the stunning battle scenes, but in the surprising lack of character development. Yes, Napoleon’s (Joaquin Phoenix) history is ubiquitously known, but with such an intense focus on his love interest Josephine (Vanessa Kirby), it might have been nice to get to know her better. Instead, we jump from one historical moment to the next with little depth in storytelling.
Director Ridley Scott has always been an inconsistent filmmaker, but even with that knowledge, Napoleon is a painful movie to sit through. While some of the battle sequences are cool, this film is so unfocused that it feels like it was chopped into pieces and Frankenstein'd into an ugly, disengaging monstrosity. The only person more bored than I was watching this movie was Joaquin Phoenix while filming it. It’s truly the product of a filmmaker whose head is so far up his own ass that he acts on his first impulses, even when they're awful. One of Scott's absolute worst.
Director Ridley Scott’s Napoleon feels unfocused, tackling far too much subject matter for one narrative. A movie solely dedicated to the relationship between Napoleon (Joaquin Phoenix) and Josephine (Vanessa Kirby) could be fascinating, but Napoleon never fully commits to this one topic. The film simultaneously attempts to cover Napoleon’s love life, his extensive military history, and his political career, sprinting through his life at a break-neck pace. I can admire the jaw-dropping battle sequences, but these moments lack the context needed to truly feel epic. Despite the lengthy runtime, Napoleon ultimately feels too short for its own good (no pun intended).
Napoleon is both an overlong slog and a Cliffs Notes-level telling of the titular figure’s life. Despite some decent battle sequences, it feels like director Ridley Scott lost interest about halfway through production because there are moments that are laughably bad and incredibly lazy (don’t get me started on the accents). Granted, there are rumors of a four-hour Director’s Cut, so maybe this is Apple’s fault, but the theatrical version is a messy disaster that crams too much story into its 157-minute runtime. None of the blame falls at the feet of Joaquin Phoenix or Vanessa Kirby, though (Kirby is flat-out wasted), so there’s that.