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‘Napoleon’: an impressive movie that tried covering too much

Provided by Sony Pictures Entertainment
The image cover for “Napoleon”.

Everyone knows Napoleon one way or another, whether it be through their world history textbook, his outlandish feats in his military career, or even some lesser-known pop-culture references. Yet, despite the legends surrounding Napoleon, there are still aspects of this famous figure that are yet to be revealed.

Napoleon was directed by the famous Ridley Scott, who is known for directing Alien in 1979, Gladiator in 2000, and The Martian in 2015. Released in theaters on Nov. 22, Napoleon is a realistic non-fiction depiction of the rise of fame, military might, and the fall of the famous French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix). Most of the movie, although focused on the wars and battles of the Napoleonic Era (1799-1815), held a mix of romance with Napoleon’s wife Josephine (Vanessa Kirby), which influenced his feelings and actions during the great majority of his life.

Rather than beginning with Napoleon’s origins, the film opens with the execution of Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution, setting an unexpected tone rather than starting off with the beginning of Napoleon’s life. Phoenix’s portrayal of Napoleon is a highlight, capturing a surprising stoicism to the character. The chemistry between Phoenix and Kirby also added some depth to the movie, with Kirby’s Josephine serving as a compelling counterpoint to Napoleon’s antics.

Undoubtedly, one of the elements that stayed consistent in Napoleon was the acting. Phoenix’s performance as Napoleon was incredible, and his portrayal of Napoleon’s semi-bipolar personality was reflective of what everyone would imagine he was like. On the other hand, Kirby as Josephine was a great mediator towards the ridiculous antics that Napoleon would commit, and would act as a calm, as well as crazy, alternative as a character.

From the beginning, the cinematography of the movie was beautiful. The city streets and the battlefields during the many scenic moments of the film gave a real perspective into what France would have looked like through the eyes of Napoleon. Even when the movie slowed down into a deep conversation or an ominous atmosphere, this only served to complete the visuals that dove into the persona of Napoleon and his peers whenever it got up close and personal with the camera.

The beautiful cinematics came with impressive musical pieces that went along with them. The music, made by Martin Phipps, was slow but fit the environments that Napoleon was in. Scenes before a battle with the slow beat of drums or the soft piano at a party whenever he felt out of place made the movie always have the right feel to it. The music was not like other movies with the use of enthusiastic tones, yet it always seemed to capture a sense of sadness or mystery to the scene in a masterful way.

Obviously, in a war-based movie, the use of gore is normal, although in this movie it seemed to be used more without much censorship from the viewers, which was surprising at times. Sometimes the movie wouldn’t try to censor it or shy it away from the eyes of the viewers which could be surprising at times. I know for some it would be a deciding factor in watching the movie or not, but to me as a viewer it wasn’t the worst thing I have ever seen.

While Napoleon does a lot of things right, there are still places that the movie fell short. One of the biggest problems of the movie was the pacing. Although the movie was based on over 15 years of Napoleon’s life which is hard to cover, it seemed as though the movie skipped certain parts like it was nothing. There are times during the early parts of the movie where it just fades, and then Napoleon pops into another environment with no smooth transition to cover up what had happened before.

One of the biggest priorities of the movie was the romantic aspect with Josephine, but it felt as if she got too much time on screen. If the movie was more prioritized towards an overview of his life instead of showing the romantic parts of his relationship with his wife, I think it would be more informational, putting more time into the most important events in history.

Additionally, the amount of romantic scenes in the movie made the viewers feel uncomfortable and gross. They took me out of the movie and moved the narrative away from everything else going on in Napoleon’s life and into more of a generic romance story.

Overall, Napoleon was impressive in the scenes that didn’t rush or try too hard to be something they weren’t. If the movie was more focused on who Napoleon truly was and informed the viewer on what he and his companions were going through in a realistic fashion, my rating of the movie would increase. Still, the movie was entertaining, but there were definitely things to fix.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants a laugh because of unironic laughable moments, as well as anyone who enjoys movies semi-filled with action sequences for entertainment.


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About the Contributor
Noah Brown
Noah Brown, Social Media & Graphic Design Editor
Hello! My name is Noah Brown and I am a senior as well as one of the two current Social Media & Graphic Design Editor for the Ghostwriter. I love to ski, bike, listen to music, and work with the peers around me. This is my second year with the Ghostwriter but I am very excited to be a part of this team of wonderful people!

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