[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope: Napoleon

The love song of Josephine and Napoleon

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

November 28, 2023 – This is one historical drama that requires little knowledge of history from its audience, because it is basically a love story. Of course, a good knowledge of 18th and 19th century Europe would be helpful to understand this movie, but it isn't necessary.

The love story is that of French general and emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, and his wife, Josephine (played by Vanessa Kirby of “Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One”). For Napoleon (played by Joaquin Phoenix of “Joker”) this love is the kind of all-consuming madness, that is not entirely shared by his wife. In the movie, Josephine says to Bonaparte, “You are nothing without me,” and then makes him admit it.

Napoleon, a brilliant military leader, unlike many great historical figures, came from nothing, and still managed to rise to great power. Even so, Josephine's declaration that he would be nothing without her seems to be borne out, at least in this movie. Napoleon's rise to power coincides with his romance and marriage to Josephine. His decline and fall from power coincides with his divorce from Josephine, and later, her death.

This movie, of course, includes great battles in Europe. It also includes international politics of that era, alliances forged, then broken, in power struggles involving France, England, Russia, Austria and Prussia. Battles shown in the movie include Napoleon's most brilliant victory, defeating the armies of the Austrians and Russians at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, as well as Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812, and, of course, his ultimate defeat at Waterloo in 1815.

Despite this history, the battles and the politics, director Ridley Scott (“The Martian” and “Thelma & Louise”) and writer David Scarpa (“All the Money in the World”) always keep this movie on track as a personal story, with everything related to the relationship between Napoleon and Josephine. This makes Napoleon and Josephine characters in the story who are easy to relate to, as well as being a strong focal point for the film.

For a movie featuring a lot of death and tragedy, it also has a fair share of humor, particularly seen in the ups and downs of the relationship between Josephine and Napoleon, which was the subject of some embarrassing headlines of French tabloids. One of Josephine's publicized sexual escapades causes Napoleon to desert his army in Egypt and return to France to confront her. Napoleon is also becomes the butt of a joke about his own legacy, late in the movie.

Napoleon has had a lasting impact on the law and international relations. His importance in history goes far beyond what is shown in this movie. While the movie does play fast and loose with the facts at times, overall, it is fairly accurate, according to one French scholar I saw interviewed. The most important thing the movie gets right is Napoleon's love for Josephine.

This movie is an impressive achievement in that it is an entertaining historical drama. It shows the audience some history without being didactic or pedantic. It certainly puts a human face on Napoleon and Josephine. It turns out they are just as foolish as the rest of us when it comes to ego and relationships. This movie rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]