Emil Woerner’s review published on Letterboxd:
Holy moly, I had no clue this movie was going to be this good. It’s always the secret films of his that wind up being exactly what he wanted them to be. I mean, that’s what this is. It’s A Clockwork Orange but better. It’s Full Metal Jacket but better. It’s what’s left of the Napoleon film that was tragically left unfinished. It’s the historical tale of corruption and power he was so eager to make, but it works so profoundly here with a runtime of just over 3 hours, the perfect length for this story. This movie is many things.
1. It’s the fully realized product that I just outlined a second ago. It’s the second (of three) major masterpieces of the second half of his career, his “auteurist” phase. This phase was established with 2001 and lasted until his death. Every film from here on out is shot similarly. It’s like they all have different goals and themes, similar looks and energies, and very different costumes and genres on. This is his historical biopic about the rise and fall of power, and it’s done immaculately thanks to his full authorship of this story.
2. It is the beginning of “big dick energy” historical films. Films like Silence, There Will Be Blood, The Favourite, The Witch, Marie Antoinette, Little Women and Gangs of New York all got into this category - movies with modern concepts, themes, and plots told in a time period at least two centuries ago that summarize the human quest for power masterfully and make us reassess the past.
3. The film Stanley Kubrick should have won his Academy Awards for. Fucking unbelievable he died with only one: the VFX Oscar for 2001.
Tied together with a brilliant cast, and the best production design, costumes, soundtrack, and cinematography of his career (each of these categories could inspire a 500 word essay), he pulls off his most complete and fully realized cinematic work, probably only topped by the philosophical perfection of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’m happy this was my last Kubrick, it ended up competing in quality with the first I saw by him. It’s a Scorsese movie, a Coppola movie, a Bresson movie, a Coen Brothers movie, a Paul Thomas Anderson movie and a Tarantino movie, all summarized in the best presentation we have seen so far. Can’t wait to rewatch it.