Pssst, want to check out Waterloo in our new look?
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A partially successful attempt by "War and Peace" director Sergey Bondarchuk to accurately recreate the famous defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte by the British at Waterloo. The scale of the undertaking is astonishing with enormous panoramic vistas of ranked soldiers and most memorably an almost impossible to conceive scene of battle shot from high above as floods of French cavalrymen swarm around formations of British infantry. Those images aren't quite strong enough to forget the clumsy and often confused storytelling that lead up to them however - the script fails to sparkle, weighed down by some muddy and drawn out historical accuracy, as well as some terrible dubbing, a consistent problem in a multi-language cast and crew.
Performance wise Rod Steiger is always a powerful presence on screen and does well as Bonaparte, he is never less than watchable, although his mad leaps from bellowing rage to whispered fervour are overly familiar and get repetitive after a while. Christopher Plummer is excellent as the supercilious snob Wellington, dropping sarcastic quips and barely contained contempt for the men he has to lead and is a perfect intellectual foil for the passionate Steiger. Elsewhere Orson Welles phones in a cameo as the briefly reinstated King Louis XVIII, while Dan O'Herlihy, Jack Hawkins, Virginia McKenna and Terence Alexander from TV's Bergerac fill up the supporting cast.
As a spectacle and physical act of film-making it is now unlikely to be surpassed in this age of realistically computer generated crowds but problems elsewhere stop this from being the true classic it should have been.
Great battle scenes balanced out by some hammy acting by Rod Steiger as Napoleon.
Amazing film. 16000 extras and 2000 horses; something we will never see again in the likes of film history.
to see which of your friends have seen this movie!