Filmmaker Ridley Scott is back with his new historical epic based on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte and so far the film is pulling in quite good reviews – though not without grumbles.
The film details the checkered rise and fall of the iconic French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix), capturing his relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Josephine (Vanessa Kirby).
Reviews are divided in terms of how much they enjoyed it – some seem to find it a bore, some a laugh, many seem to point out the best elements of it are when it avoids or subverts the historical epic cliches. Here’s a sampling of quotes:
“Scott has created an outrageously enjoyable cavalry charge of a movie, a full-tilt biopic of two and a half hours in which Scott doesn’t allow his troops to get bogged down mid-gallop in the muddy terrain of either fact or metaphysical significance.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Watching Napoleon, I couldn’t help but feel like Scott may have been caught off-guard himself. There’s no doubt he knew the film would be funny, but he seems to have been surprised by how far that funniness would take it.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire
“While this sumptuously mounted production delivers as a sweeping war epic, one hopes Ridley Scott’s promised director’s cut will fill in the emotional and historical blanks.” – Alonso Duralde, The Film Verdict
“As entertainment Napoleon delivers without glorifying his military record or painting the man as a hero. It’s a story about power, obsession and exploitation — which arguably is the story of history itself” – Hannah Strong, Little White Lies
“This is a historical epic which is constantly on the lookout for subtle ways to undercut historical epics.” – Catherine Bray, Empire
“The runtime doesn’t exactly fly by, and one shudders to think how a Director’s Cut with two more hours will help that, but Napoleon, like its subject, gets where it’s going by stealth.” – Damon Wise, Deadline
“Napoleon ultimately suffers from the same problem as its subject: The film’s ambitions are greater than the people demand, as Scott bites off more than he can manage.” – Peter DeBruge, Variety
“For all its brawn and atmosphere and robustly choreographed combat, this is a distended historical tapestry too sprawling to remain compelling, particularly when its focus veers away from the central couple.” – David Rooney, THR
“Napoleon feels both hurried and ponderous, enlivened only occasionally by a wry and quickly vanishing gesture toward what it all might be saying.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair
The 157-minute film premiered in Paris last night and is scheduled to be released theatrically around much of the world late next week. At a later date, it will premiere on Apple TV+ with a four-hour director’s cut version expected next year.