During Napoleon's exile on St. Helena, some loyalists hire a look-alike to swap places with the deposed emperor: while the impostor lives in luxury on the island, the real Napoleon returns to Paris in order to retake the throne.
Napoleon, exiled, devises a plan to retake the throne. He'll swap places with commoner Eugene Lenormand, sneak into Paris, then Lenormand will reveal himself and Napoleon will regain his throne. Things don't go at all well; first, the journey proves more difficult than expected, but more disastrously, Lenormand enjoys himself too much to reveal the deception. Napoleon adjusts somewhat uneasily to the life of a commoner while waiting, while Lenormand gorges on rich food. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
A big measure of how I rate a movie comes from how I feel at the end of it. I was feeling really good after this one.
Quick plot outline: Napoleon (an awesome Ian Holm) is exiled on the isle of St. Helena, but someone has been found who looks exactly like him. So he has concocted a simple plan: have him and the look-alike switch places, and then after Napoleon arrives in Paris, have the fake announce to the world that he is a fraud, in essence telling the world Napoleon has escaped and therefore paving the way for Napoleon to return to the throne. But the plan doesn't go as predicted: the ship Napoleon travels on sails by France for one, and the fraud is not quick to give up his oh-so dreary exile. When Napoleon does arrive in Paris, as per the plan, he stays with Madame Truchaut, the wife (Iben Hjejle) of a now deceased soldier who had started a fruit-selling business after his military career had ended. Napoleon and Madame Truchaut get to know each other and her kindness begins to chip away at his hardened heart. Needless to say while this is happening, the fake is not quick to tell to the world he is an impostor as he's been cleaning the poop decks of Napoleon's ships for years. And the real Napoleon begins to see the real cost that his reign cost France.
The basic story is not new but it is done really well. Ian Holm is a VERY believable Napoleon, always walking like a soldier, talking in a straight and curt manner, and in general giving the impression he was born in a war room. He's also quite funny as Eugene Lenormand, the fake who's playing Napoleon. The film could have easily been a flop - mixing a love story with Napoleon is obviously a sticky wicket. But it doesn't get too serious for it's own good, or too funny. It's a great mix. The film doesn't spend too much time on the fake, which it easily could have for laughs. The story is about the real Napoleon, and it stays focused. There is also a great scene where a rival for Madame Truchaut's affections, a doctor (an unctuous Tim McInnerny), tricks Napoleon into coming to a mental institution, where Napoleon sees a whole bunch of crazies pretending to be him. He looks at himself: is this the legacy he left France? Is he looking at himself and not liking what he sees? It's a cool scene. It makes it all the more powerful as the doctor knows his identity, and seems to get a twisted yet humbling satisfaction from humiliating and defeating the great Napoleon, not to mention freeing up Madame Truchaut for himself.
But I was still smiling a lot through the movie, and that's something I don't find a lot these days. Maybe you will too. Highly recommended.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?