starring Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Rupert Everett
written by David Scarpa
directed by Ridley Scott
by Walter Chaw I wish Ridley Scott's Napoleon was weirder, kinkier, as perverse as it seems like Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the diminutive emperor, wants it to be. I wish it had more time for his relationship with Josephine (Vanessa Kirby), who, in this incarnation, is cast as a kind of succubus: a barren nymphomaniac who pulls up her bloomers and spreads her legs during her courtship with Napoleon and tells him if he looks at her holiest of holies, he'll never stop wanting it. It's deeply weird, is what I'm saying, and there's a version of this film that is just ninety minutes of these two actors, ready for anything, going full-tilt boogie. Maybe he puts on a dog collar, and she steps on him; then he goes out and murders a few tens of thousands of Egyptians while firing cannons at the Great Pyramids. In that Napoleon, however, we wouldn't see the million-dollar battle sequences, but instead a series of disturbing tableaux vivant of codependency and sadomasochistic sex play ending in the same title card tallying up the number of people who died (over three million) because of this creepy little freak. "Him?" we would marvel--and then consider that maybe it's only damaged men, damaged in exactly this way, who would consider the military conquest of the world a thing to be desired, possible to accomplish, and more, possible for them to accomplish. But, alas, that's not the sort of movie Ridley Scott makes.