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The Campus Lantern

Hope Kelly ’25 reviews Napoleon

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon (2023) is a visually impressive biopic about the life of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The film follows the rise and fall of Bonaparte’s France, from the battles he participated in, to his failed marriage to Joséphine de Beauharnais and the emotional toll that their relationship had on him.

 Academy Award-winning actor Joaquin Phoenix delivers a bland performance in the role of Napoleon. He lacks emotion in his portrayal of the emperor and the absence of a French accent is distracting. Visually speaking, the film is incredible, with battle scenes providing a highly detailed look into the militaristic side of Napoleon’s France. The costumes are gorgeous and extremely detailed; however, the use of color is understated by the blue tint that Scott has chosen to put over the final film. 

In my opinion, the film was mediocre at best. It had a very odd focus on Joséphine, with Bonaparte’s second wife only appearing in one scene despite their emphasis on him divorcing his first wife for her. 

Historically speaking, the film inaccurately dramatised many events from Napolean’s life. The film’s climax includes Napoleon charging into battle with his troops at the Battle of Waterloo, something he wouldn’t have done. Instead, many historians have noted that he would have stayed behind in battle and observed from afar. 

Overall, it was fine – visually incredible to see in theaters, but most of the other choices Scott made weren’t great.

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