Napoleon – The DVDfever Cinema Review – Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby

Napoleon Napoleon is the latest historical epic with made-up facts, but first, tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1789, as we have a load of introductory text, and when it begins: “The French have become disillusioned by food shortages and widespread economic depression. Anti-Royalists would soon send King Louis XvI and 11,000 of his supporters to a violent end”

…it does rather feel like what’s happening with the awful Tory party that we’re still having to suffer in the UK.

It’s the time of the execution of Marie Antoinette (Catherine WalkerThe Deceived), in a guillotine-stylee – and in a bit more grizzly a fashion than I expected, since such scenes usually just (ahem) ‘cut away’ at the last moment in movies, but nope, it all happens, here. Either way, she’ll be eating no more cake.


Ian Holm as the older Napoleon.

I can’t begin to be a historian about the ins and outs of the life of Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix, on fine form, as always), but despite the lengthy running time of just over two-and-a-half hours, it does rather canter through his life, and I understand the potential director’s cut is 5 hours long! If they show that on the big screen, I would go again, but even unlike the extended Lord of the Rings movies, please give us an intermission!

Anyhoo, while I understand Nap’s first foray into battle is at the Siege of Toulon, his plan is to take a castle, get rid of all the enemies, but unfortunately, his horse is spectacularly kil -led in what is clearly a CGI scene, as that would not be on to make an animal suffer in that way. Beyond that, while there are a number of battles featured in this movie (including Waterloo, in June 1815(, I later learned that while Napoleon did travel to Egypt, he never went right up to the pyramids, nor fired at them in an attempt to destroy them.

Vanessa Kirby (Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One) makes for a very fetching Josephine Bonaparte, but after marrying the titular character, it’s “not tonight, Josephine”, when it comes to siring a child for him, leading him to go elsewhere. Sounds fine to me, though, as I have no interest in spawning offspring. But, one point which I’ll put behind a spoiler header…

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

Regarding a few other aspects in this film:

  • 1. No-one does any foreign accents, apart from a few characters later on, such as Miles Jupp (SAS Rogue Heroes), as Emperor Francis I, the Archduke of Austria. This makes me wonder why do some do them, but others don’t? I find it’s better NOT to start trying to replicate them otherwise, everyone sounds like they’re in ‘Allo ‘Allo.

  • 2. Despite being a 15-certificate, as Napoleon and Josephine start making whoopee, you get to see his haggard, na -kd bot -tom, but not her charms up top.

  • 3. Who was the dead body in a coffin?

  • 4. Sometimes, the names of real people (while portrayed by an actor for the first time) appear onscreen, but usually not. I Napoleon there were names for all of them.

  • 5. When Josephine’s physician, Dr Corvisart, appeared onscreen, and I saw who was playing him, I wanted to stand up and shout, “It’s The Actor Kevin Eldon!”

  • 6. There’s also the Russian invasion, in September 1812… Ooh, time for an overture!

  • 7. Finally, there’s a continuity error during a card game with Ben Miles‘ character, Caulaincourt.

Around 90 minutes in, as the scene begins, the camera is pointed towards the man dealing the cards shows that one each has been dealt between him and Miles. The dealer adds a second card for the latter, then the camera shows the table from Ben’s point of view, with him only having ONE card. The dealer then deals a SECOND card for Ben, after which, the camera view cuts back, and Ben now is shown to have THREE cards.

Overall, Ridley Scott‘s Napoleon is worth watching and fairly entertaining, but as it just lumbers from one scene to another, I never felt particularly excited by it all. I would watch the director’s cut, if it comes to fruition, but for now, the only time I’ll watch the main character is when I see Ian Holm portraying him in Time Bandits.

Napoleon is in cinemas now, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.

Napoleon – Official Trailer – Sony Pictures Entertainment

Detailed specs:

Running time: 158 minutes
Release date: November 22nd 2023
Studio: Columbia Pictures Corporation
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (ARRIRAW (4.5K), Dolby Vision, Spherical)
Cinema: Odeon Trafford Centre
Rating: 6/10

Director: Ridley Scott
Producers: Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Kevin J Walsh
Screenplay: David Scarpa
Music: Martin Phipps

Napoleon Bonaparte: Joaquin Phoenix
Josephine Bonaparte: Vanessa Kirby
Paul Barras: Tahar Rahim
Duke of Wellington: Rupert Everett
Junot: Mark Bonnar
Talleyrand: Paul Rhys
Caulaincourt: Ben Miles
Lucille: Riana Duce
Marie Antoinette: Catherine Walker
Theresa Cabarrus: Ludivine Sagnier
Tsar Alexander: Edouard Philipponnat
Emperor Francis I: Miles Jupp
Marshal Berthier: Scott Handy
General Dumas: Abubakar Salim
Sieyes: Julian Rhind-Tutt
Fouche: John Hodgkinson
Robespierre: Sam Troughton
Charles Leclerc: Michael O’Connor
Clerk / Storage Room: Dominic Coleman
Louis XVIII: Ian McNeice
Dr Corvisart: The Actor Kevin Eldon