Napoleon (2023)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on November 19, 2023 @

Napoleon is a challenging epic. It's long and loud.

It's also spectacular - especially the battle scenes. One on the ice may have footage you've never seen before.

Napoleon follows the life and career of one of the most famous men in history.

As early as 1971 Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a film about Napoleon, perhaps starring Jack Nicholson and Audrey Hepburn. He did voluminous, exhaustive research about Napoleon. He had 15,000 location photos, and was going to use 40,000 infantry men and 10,000 cavalry men. But he never was able to make the film, because MGM - the studio that owned the rights - changed hands and refused to make the commitment.

Kubrick finally made his film with Jack Nicholson in The Shining. (1980)

50 years after Kubrick's failed attempt, director Ridley Scott has taken over the reins. He has made the best film ever about Napoleon. No previous film about Napoleon has achieved its status. None before have been successful.

Writer David Scarpa's screenplay and Scott's direction give their title character conflicting qualities.

Joaquin Phoenix gives a restrained performance as Napoleon. His character is imposing but vulnerable. He is calculating but insecure, vain, and petulant. That Napoleon Bonaparte was 5' 2" is a myth. Reportedly he was 5' 6". Joaquin is an appropriate 5' 8".

Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret in tv's The Crown) is credible and appealing as the fabled Josephine. And Rupert Everett adds gravity as the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon's adversary.

Napoleon should get several Academy Award nominations - Costume Design, Production Design, Cinematography, and Visual Effects.

Napoleon - like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - is a film that should be seen in a theater.

Big Effects should be seen on Big Screens.

© 2000-2023 Tony Macklin