The dynamic duo of director Ridley Scott and actor Joaquin Phoenix have come together yet again to bring audiences this beaut of a film, Napoleon.

The movie follows the Frenchman’s meteoric rise to emperor while chronicling his arrogance, insecurity, and shortcomings. Joaquin Phoenix gives a riveting portrayal of Napoleon Bonaparte, an ambitious military commander with an eye for battle tactics and the promotion of France. We also see his deep, yet, extremely tumultuous love for Josephine (Vanessa Kirby).

Napoleon is another booming success for Apple. If the tech giant can continue to churn out top-tier content and continue their meticulous selection of programming, they’ll be on the winning side of the streaming war. Apple TV+ is still new, arguably still in its infancy. To go up against giants like Netflix and Hulu, you need content. I’ve said many times that Netflix’s weakness is the amount of content they hoard, and yet, they continue to do so. It’s found its place in meme glory forever but it’s true, you can scroll through hundreds of projects on Netflix and still find nothing to watch. I’ve never encountered that on Apple TV+. First, Killers of the Flower Moon, and now Napoleon? In just two months time? If the Silicon Valley noobs beat their chest in a braggadocious manner after awards season I’ll completely understand.

Aside from receiving an entertaining 158-minute history lesson, audiences will learn how a popular personality reference was birthed. As you’ll see, Bonaparte was an avid reader of the newspaper and the British spared no expense at his confidence. British media often characterized the emperor as a short, angry man. Now used as a social stereotype, “Napoleon Complex” is normally attributed to people of short stature who are characterized by overly aggressive or domineering behavior. It’s believed that the aforementioned behavior is to compensate for a physical (Bonaparte’s height) or social shortcoming (his sexual encounters were short-lived). The emperor’s anger issues are well-documented and Phoenix does an excellent Jekyll-Hyde-style portrayal in balancing love, conquest, and petty behavior.

As a multilingual fellow, I had hoped that the bulk of the movie would be in French since we’re talking about a “French” emperor. To my chagrin, I discovered everyone speaking English with the exception of the Austrians, who had a handful of scenes in German. But fear not friends, the lack of linguistic aptitude does not lessen the film’s authenticity.

He was beloved by many and was credited with many social reforms and famous war victories, but his legacy will always be mixed. The originator of the ‘Napoleon Complex’ also had a murky record on civil rights, the reintroduction of slavery amongst the French colonies, and we can’t forget a little country called Haiti. The film even had Black people working alongside him and in the same capacity as some housemaids so this wasn’t a historically accurate portrayal at all. But one that was still entertaining and educational.

France… Army… Josephine.”

Last words of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon gets a 9 out of 10. Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely sensational. Whether he shares a moment of humor with Josephine or reacts to a grave misstep, Phoenix delivers a performance that would mince the likes of Gladiator. As you follow along you can actually see his mistakes before they happen because you’ll grow familiar with his temperament. Many scenes are stamped with dates and titles to make it easier to follow along (and the battle scenes are impressive). It’s probably not the most suitable for children with sex, vulgarity, and violence, but surely a late-teen, alongside an adult, would find this captivating for sure.

Napoleon will be in theaters on Nov. 22

-Jon Jones

Photos: Courtesy of Apple TV+

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