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Review: Waterloo, The Last Battle (2014)

Directed by: | 80 minutes | , , , | Actors: , ,

Waterloo, The Last Battle tells the haunting, dramatic and compelling story of one of the most imaginative battles ever. Hour by hour and minute by minute, the twists and turns and developments that determined the events of June 1815 and ultimately led to the downfall of the legendary French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte are shown.

Although Waterloo in itself is a modest and relatively insignificant place in Belgium (at the time still the Southern Netherlands), the town was the scene of a legendary battle in 1815 that changed the world from then on. After the legendary French emperor, warlord and conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the island of Elba in 1814 after a series of military defeats, after his escape in February 1815 he quickly an opportunity to build an impressive army again. He owed this in particular to his former Marshal Michel Ney, the commander of the French army who had actually been sent by King Louis XVIII to stop Napoleon and his force of about eight hundred loyalists. However, Ney defected with his entire army to his former commander. In two months, Napoleon formed a force of 200,000 men and with 120,000 soldiers he moved towards the French-Belgian border. The goal: to restore the former French Empire. After a series of battles, many clashes of arms and the loss of countless lives, Napoleon in Waterloo finally had to bow to the coalition of British, , Prussian and Hannovan forces led by the Duke of Wellington and General Gerhard Leberecht von Blücher. The Battle of Waterloo marked the end of a series of wars that began with the Battle of Valmy won by the French in 1793 and marked the end of France’s status as the strongest power on European soil.

Almost two hundred years later, the Battle of Waterloo comes back to life for a moment in the documentary “Waterloo, The Last Battle”. The is above all a detailed reconstruction that shows the legendary battle on two levels. The film examines both the game of chess between the army leaders Napoleon and Wellington and the more prosaic and gruesome hardships that the soldiers had to endure. Because there were of course no film or photo cameras in the early nineteenth century, archive footage is missing and the battle is mainly portrayed by actors and an army of costumed extras. Less lively than a historical documentary about a more modern era that is supported by archive footage, but on the basis of quotes from real field reports, it is clear how the common soldier experienced the Battle of Waterloo while slogging in the mud. The main points and the strategic jousting game between the generals are mainly told by the various historians who speak in “Waterloo, The Last Battle”.

Although the documentary brings few new facts or insights to light for insiders, it is a detailed, interesting and also easy to follow account for non-historians of a turbulent episode in European political history, a period that eventually led to the epic battle at Waterloo and a new political order of power.

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