Napoleon was just as I anticipated—filled with drama and gore. Being a history geek, films delving into the past rank among my favorites, unlike my dad, who isn’t a fan of period pieces. The movie exemplifies a stereotypical periodic biopic, balancing personal and “actual” life well.While there are generic war scenes, what makes the film intriguing is Napoleon’s personal life and identity. His tactics in war almost take a back seat to his personal struggles.
I’ve come across sources suggesting that Scott embellished much of the plot, making Napoleon appear more foolish for entertainment value. I disagree with this approach for two reasons.
Firstly, Napoleon’s documented life is already entertaining and dynamic, and a factual portrayal wouldn’t have bored the audience. Secondly, The issue with changing the life of a massive historical figure, especially such a controversial one, is that it leaves the audience with a different opinion, one that was altered by the director’s views on the character. They don’t necessarily form an opinion of Napoleon but rather an opinion of Scott’s Napoleon.
Putting that aside, I loved the movie for what it is—an adaptation. Beyond the first point, the film remains dynamic and enjoyable. The biopic really goes under the skin of a massive name and explore emotional/interacal parts of this bigger than life name. There are reasons beyond his war tactics that makes him such a well know name in history and this film highlights that perfectly. I appreciated the portrayal of Napoleon as a small man with immense power and emotional struggles, mirroring Joaquin Phoenix’s role in Gladiator and Beau is Afraid.
However, I found Vanessa Kirby’s performance to be truly breathtaking. She effortlessly commands every moment of attention when she’s on screen, reinforcing the idea that Napoleon, as a character, is far more submissive. The film accentuates his affection and dedication towards her. Even during war, he is portrayed writing to Josephine and contemplating her. The audience is put in the same position; we ponder about her whereabouts and her reactions to his letters, even when she isn’t on screen. This clear power imbalance underscores the lack of real-life experience he has had compared to what she has known—an emotional depth that extends far beyond the realm of war tactics.
Despite concerns about historical accuracy, I found the film engaging, it was powerful and fufilled the story Scott wanted to present to the audience. It felt shorter than its runtime, and the battle scenes, costuming, set design, and cinematography were captivating. When watching movies, I really applaud the attention to detail in all departments, it is little elements that make the overall film more realistic and for the genre of a biopic thats super important.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, immersed in the characters and appreciating the nuanced elements. A cautionary note: this isn’t the actual history, so viewers should keep that in mind while forming opinions.⠀
What did you guys think of Napoleon?