“Joaquin Phoenix makes a magnificent emperor in thrilling biopic” – The Guardian

“The details of historical truth be damned: this mighty adventure should be seen on the biggest screen possible. Charge on horseback to the multiplex to savour it.” – NME

Having recently experienced the profound impact of Oppenheimer, I hesitated before embarking on another lengthy cinematic journey. Another dive into history? Another biographical epic? Yet, my curiosity prevailed, leading me to the realm of Napoleon. The narrative unfolds in 1789, with the execution of Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. Joaquin Phoenix, portraying a young gunnery officer, witnesses the event. Subsequently, Napoleon is dispatched to liberate a fort in Toulon from British occupation. It’s in this moment that we witness the commencement of the man’s ascent.

Ridley Scott’s enthralling portrayal of Napoleon proves to be a cinematic gem. Joaquin Phoenix, with his signature eccentricity, delivers a performance that has become his trademark across various roles, be it ‘Joker’ or ‘Signs.’ This eccentricity is accompanied by a subtle delivery, almost as if Phoenix is a supporting force to the ensemble cast. Yet, it is this understated brilliance that anchors his potentially Oscar-worthy performance. Amidst tortured romance, political intrigues, and the spectre of war and death, Phoenix claims each frame, almost wresting ownership of the film from Ridley Scott.

In a recent interview with Empire Magazine, Ridley Scott aptly described Joaquin Phoenix as “the best player of damaged goods.” This portrayal echoes in Napoleon, with a depth and operatic quality that goes beyond mere historical reenactment. Phoenix captures psychological torment, extreme mood swings, and moments of egotism and tyranny with a nuanced touch. Whether dominating on the battlefield or displaying brattish tendencies in meetings, Phoenix navigates the complexities of Napoleon’s character with finesse.

A pivotal aspect of Napoleon’s life and narrative unfolds in his relationship with Josephine, portrayed impeccably by the exquisite Vanessa Kirby. Kirby’s performance balances cool charisma with regal poise, adding depth to the character without overpowering the narrative.

Napoleon serves as a testament to Ridley Scott’s directorial prowess. His unmatched ability shines through in battle sequences that are both visually stunning and easy to follow amid the chaos. The film’s wide format enhances the cinematic experience, providing a panoramic view of the clashes rather than fleeting glimpses. Scott doesn’t shy away from portraying the brutality of war, illustrating infantrymen torn apart and plunging through frozen lakes in unflinching detail.

While acknowledging the inevitable deviations from historical accuracy in a condensed three-hour narrative, Napoleon remains a spectacle. It rightfully earns the label of an epic, with its lead stars, particularly Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby, deserving accolades for their stellar performances. In the hands of Ridley Scott, the film emerges as a captivating and watchable journey through the tumultuous life of the iconic emperor.