Film review: Napoleon

These are the parts Napoleon is all about. Detail is for the scholars. This is a movie that proudly prints the legend, bringing to life the stories of great victory, enormous power, very French romance and big hats with all the pomp and vigour it can muster. It doesn’t even matter that he seems to bounce from one great campaign to the next with only the loosest of explanation as to what he’s doing or how he got there. Meanwhile, Phoenix’s take on his role is as impressive as his subject. He knows when to be a brilliant tactician, when to allow his emotions and love for his wife, his country and his desire to serve melt his frequently grumpy exterior, and when to simply be a childish, sulking arse.

Many have, ahem, met their Waterloo trying to put Napoleon on film. Even the late Stanley Kubrick gave up. And Scott’s telling here hasn’t escaped criticism already, both for its vague relationship with reality and, among the French, for the more negative, cartoonish depictions of their top man. It isn’t perfect, but as a thrilling, massive piece of cinema, it tackles this most complex, vast, influential and filled life and presents it as an action-packed romp. For this, Napoleon wins the day.

Verdict: 4/5

Napoleon is released on November 22