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Waterloo 1970
Description: After defeating France and imprisoning Napoleon on Elba, ending two decades of war, Europe is shocked to search Napoleon has escaped and has caused the French Units to defect from the Lord back to him. The greatest of the British generals, the Duke of Wellington, beat Napolean's greatest generals in Spain and Portugal, but actually gotta beat Napoleon himself with an Anglo Allied army.
Released: 29 Oct 1970 Director: Sergey Bondarchuk Writers: H.A.L. Craig (story and screenplay), Sergey Bondarchuk (screenplay collaboration), Vittorio Bonicelli (screenplay collaboration) Actors: Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, Orson Welles, Jack Hawkins Genres: Action, Biography, Drama, History, War
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Waterloo Reviews:

Depicting history on movie has never been easy. In all situations the history is simplified and happenings compressed, while historical personalities are often combined or eliminated entirely. This is perfectly understandable given the needs of cramming notification into a two, perhaps three hour film, while maintaining some sort of dramatic continuity and structure. Generally speaking, while the political and social currents are painted in broad strokes, costume, make-up and especially art direction can vividly recreate in glorious feature an era, if only on a visual level. The attitudes and speech of the performers enjoy an necessary part here as well for nothing will destroy the audience's willing suspension of belief in a period recreation faster than a performance or vocal intonation that seem anachronistic.Do these movies succeed as cinema? "JFK" and "Lawrence of Arabia" are both nice movies because they succeed as works of cinema first, however inaccurate or debatable the history they depict. History's depiction in cinema gotta take a back seat to movie ascetics given the limitation of the medium in allowing for examination of an individual or happening with anything approaching depth or scope. Sergei Bondarchuk's "Waterloo" (1970) was his follow-up to his previous, equally spectacular "War and Peace" (1968). Both movies recreate the Napoleonic Age on a visual lvl to a degree of feature that has never been equaled. While the earlier movie was based on the celebrated novel of Tolstoy, "Waterloo" concerns itself with the happenings leading up to the confrontation between Emperor Napoleon I and Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. Any movie dealing with the out-sized figure of Napoleon Bonaparte gotta confront the trouble of a super abundance of source material, the adapting of which would be daunting to a modern mini-series, allow alone a movie running a tiny over two hours in length. Obviously simplification is a necessity. Indeed the movie opens with a brief written prologue summing up the happenings of the past twenty years leading up to the battle. Yet "Waterloo" is special in that virtually all the dialogue is taken from historical sources. Very tiny is made up, and Bondarchuk with co-scriptwriters H.A.L. Craig and Vittorio Bonicelli fashioned a storyline that is lucid and taut while remaining remarkably accurate to the current event.Bondarchuk was an absolute master of logistics, perhaps the greatest. and "Waterloo" territories on display his considerable talents. With an eye for feature he and his technicians reconstructed the whole battlefield, finished with chateaus and farmhouses. In addition they installed beneath the world a watering system allowing them to soak the different fields of wheat and barley as needed. Given the test of a Russian units division of 20,000 boys to represent the French, English and Prussian armies, he deployed them-in costume-complete with all the important Napoleonic ordinance to recreate the most popular war in history. And all of this was achieved without the test of CGI and digital effects. It was all done live and the effect is incredible; an current Napoleonic war recreated on a full scale. With columns of smoke and fire, charging horses, thousands of units in brilliant uniforms marching in formation, the movie as caught by cinematographer Armando Nannuzz has a horrific grandeur. The stirring score by Nino Rota uses melody from the period as well as current martial tunes played by Napoleon's Old Guard as they marched into battle. All the set pieces of the war are lovingly recreated; the assault on the Hougoumount, the charge of the Scots Greys, the forming of the British units into squares, the final stand of the Old Guard.Bondarchuk also wisely focuses on the personalities of the two protagonists. He is well served by both Rod Steiger as Napoleon and Christopher Plummer as Wellington. Steiger is earthy and passionate, a brilliant charismatic leader racing vs the rapid decaying of his faculties. Plummer is arrogant, aloof, a disdainful English aristocrat, "Scum. Nothing but gutter trash and scum!" And he is referring to his own troops. They are surrounded by a nice helping cast. Happily the movie is well served here as well. Dan O'Herlihy as Marshal Ney does a magnificent job of suggesting a boy struggling desperately with some inner conflict. As his British counterpart, Jack Hawkins plays the hard-bitten General Sir Thomas Picton. He is an aristocrat more at home on the battlefield than on the ballroom dance floor. Orson Welles does an effective cameo as the fat, gouty, ineffectual Louis XVIII. Welles does a remarkable job in his several mins of screen time by now making the fleeing Bourbon Lord sympathetic rather than buffoonish. Virginia McKenna does a delightful turn as the worldly Duchess of Richmond in a stunning ballroom sequence that sets Byron's poem, "The Eve of Waterloo" to it cinematic equivalent.The movie was long rumored to run over four hours in the Russian version, and at times it does have the feel of a movie that has been cut, but recently the film's Associate Producer and Editor Richard C. Meyer has confirmed that the longest known ver ran 132 mins and that the "four hour" ver was merely a rough slash never meant for distribution. A fast look at the finished cast list, however suggests otherwise as many never made it to the released film.


The trouble most fight films have, especially if they depict one battle, is the addition of extraneous sub-plots. I suppose the movie makers think a broader audience will appreciate a film more if there's an ordinary fellow shoved in that we can follow, and a love interest . . . Perhaps this view is valid. "Waterloo" comes dangerously on the brink of that pitfall in an early scene, but quickly backs up and focuses on who we really need to know to understand the battle: Napoleon and Wellington. Christopher Plummer was born to enjoy Wellington, and he underplays the part beautifully, so that you know what he's thinking by the flick of an eyebrow or the corner of his mouth. Steiger looks like the older Napoleon, and he tends to chew the scenery, but Napoleon flew into unrestrained rages.The film does an admirable job of doing what so many lesser fight films don't: it gives you a nice concept of what's going on in the field. If you pay attention, you won't be at a loss for the tactic or tactics. Furthermore, the method it was shot has kept it from aging. It doesn't look like a "spectacle" from the '50s or '60s -- and though it employs a several of the terrible film-making choices of its time that late-sixties movie makers thought were so cool but which turned out so confusing and easy dated -- it doesn't seem dated at all.The script has a peculiarity that might well have destroyed it: the writers seem to have excavated each popular quote from Napoleon, Wellington, et al, and shoved them all into the dialogue; and, amazingly, it isn't a distraction. The worst trouble the movie has as a entire is its tendency to test to duplicate popular paintings by Meissonier, Lady Butler, and others; sometimes this works, giving the color tones we have come to expect of the period from those very artworks. Occasionally, it's distracting. There are a several very rough cuts that look cute bad. But the film originally was more than four hours long, and the American release suffers from somewhat terrible editing and splicing. Surely it's time to bring a full (and wide-screen) release to home video?However, if you like your historical fight films diluted with love stories and fictional characters, rather than having the true brains behind the wars at center stage, you'll probably be bored to tears by it. If you wish as nice a recreation of a popular war as you can probably get, this movie's for you.


This movie is simply a master-stroke. It depicts one of the best military victories in British history and, from the mission of view of the French, one of the most disastrous. This war place an end to the monstrous (but impressive) career of the 'Great Thief of Europe', Napoleon Bonaparte.Firstly, as an Briton, I gotta count the Duke of Wellington as one of my heroes but I could also tell that I am a nice admirer of the Emperor. Although I stand in awe of his achievements, however, as a patriot, I can't tell I regret that he was eventually defeated. Nevertheless, this doesn't stop me from admiring him.This movie is probably the greatest movie ever made that so vividly depicts the special relationship between these two exceptional characters: Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French, who, between them, were the best military minds of that era (along with the nice naval genius Rear-Admiral Horatio, Viscount Nelson, who beat the French at Trafalgar, but was tragically killed in the Battle).The movie has an nice international cast, which contains Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, Virginia McKenna, Jack Hawkins, Dan O'Herlihy and the legendary Orson Welles as Lord Louis XVIII.Steiger plays the Emperor and the movie begins with one of his most loyal generals, Marshal Michel Ney, Duc d'Elchingen (O'Herlihy), forcing him to abdicate the French throne. Steiger's portrayal of Bonaparte is electric and he plays the Emperor almost like a tragi-hero. A military genius who lays waste to most of Europe but cannot overcome his own inner-demons. Steiger's portrayal, unlike most depictions of Napoleon, shows both the Emperor's military and political fervour as well as his anxiety, insecurity and mental anguish. The director is mindful of the fact that, although Napoleon was embarking on the definitave military campaign of his life, he was mentally exhausted and destroyed by the absence of his beloved son, who was 'captive' in Austria with his mother. Although occasionally a tiny too zelous, on the whole, Steiger's performance lights up the screen, giving the viewer a vivid sense of Napoleon's imperfections, his tantrums and eccentricities.Christopher Plummer takes on the role of one of Britain's nice heroes. Once again, Sergei Bondarchuk has made no effort to romanticise or excessively glorify the 'Iron Duke'. Plummer's performance is beautifully underacted and Plummer chooses to present both Wellington's heavy ego and his sharp and witty sense of humour. Like Napoleon, and most English aritocrats, Wellington was also an eccentric (this is most excellently demonstrated by the Duke's response to the discovery that a boy from the Enniskillen, whom he "flogged more than the rest of the units place together", had stolen a pig - promoting him to corporal). Plummer makes no attempt to sugar-coat Wellington or hide some of the Field Marhsal's less pretty hero traits and prejudices, one of his first utterances in the movie being "scum! Beggars and scoundrels the lot of them. Gin is the spirit of their patriotism" (to the Duchess of Richmond, in reference to his own men).Bondarchuk takes the dangerous but highly effective gamble of packing the script full of current quotes attributed to the nice boys themselves. This should easy have been a disaster but pays off beautifully. Even though they never meet, the Emperor and the Iron Duke almost seem to have a bizarre rapour, Napoleon telling of Wellington "this boy has two qualities I admire: courage and, above all, caution" and Wellington telling of Napoleon "by God, this boy does fight honour". It also reveals a curious phenomenon that existed between Napoleon and Wellington in that Napoleon publicly derided Wellington's skill as a commander but in personal admired him a nice deal, whereas Wellington everytime publicly expressed admiration for Napoleon but in personal confided that he thought the Emperor a terrible strategist and a clumsy military leader.Bondarchuk performs a master-stroke of directing. The cinematography is nice and highly effective, combining clever, well-chosen close-ups with audacious panoramic views of the battlefield. Thrown into this the nice performances by Steiger and Plummer and an nice helping cast, including the nice Jack Hawkins (sadly, due to his having throat cancer, rather badly dubbed) as the curmudgeonly General Sir Thomas Picton, Dan O'Herlihy as the charismatic Marshal Ney and Virginia McKenna as the snobbish closet-Bonapartist Duchess of Richmond, and the effect is magic!The war scenes are exceptional (although perhaps not quite bloody enough to give an accurate depiction of the horror and carnage of warfare at that time). Bondarchuk wastes no time using poetic licence, dumbing down or filling each stage with stupid romantic flummery - the characterisation is limited to the two nice commanders and those closest around them at the time. Only Ney and Soult and Uxbridge, Ponsonby and Picton are developed much beyond simply who they were.The movie could also be congratulated on its historical accuracy. One or two minor inaccuracies aside, the movie is extremely faithful, especially in terms of the war itself and the military tactic involved. Sadly, in newest times, especially in America, the Hollywood machine seems all to satisfied to fully re-write history (e.g., "Saving Personal Ryan" and "Braveheart"). Anyone looking for other "Titanic" or "Ryan" will not be interested in this film. If you just like watching movies that bypass historical fact and depict the U.S.A. single-handedly saving the globe then may I suggest "U-571".This movie does none of these things, it shows the French, English, Scots, Irish, Belgians, Dutch, Prussians (Germans), Russians, and all the rest, fighting in a time when fight was honourable and wasn't decided by some lab-technician siting three miles under ground in Washington with his finger on a button and where there where military casualties now outnumbered civilian ones.This movie is exceptionally impressive, especially given as many of the panoramic views of the units formations were shot using cardboard cut-outs (much more effective than the contemporary practice of simply CGI-ing both armies). The only flaw is the terrible dubbing throughout the movie and the fact that, like so many de Laurentiis films, the original director's slash was 5 hours long and some soulless corporate cheats slashed it down to just over 2!Nevertheless, this is movie-history!10/10 - and that's rare!



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