The Guardian closes with this: "A splendid recreation of Napoleonic France and a compelling movie to boot. En garde!" The New Yorker calls it "gorgeous and thrilling" and says it's "one of the most impressive directorial débuts in British movie history."
The NYT concludes with this:
What one carries away from the film, though, is a memory of almost indescribable beauty, of landscapes at dawn, of over-crowded, murky interiors, of underlit hallways and brilliantly sunlit gardens. It's not a frivolous prettiness, but an evocation of time and place through images that are virtually tactile, and which give real urgency to this curious tale. It's marvelous.
Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars and praises the direction, saying, "on the occasions when the filmmaker has found source material with narrative and themes strong enough to support his commercially honed aesthetic, he has turned out films that seamlessly, and with seeming effortlessness, conflate form and content." Empire Online gives it 4 stars and concludes, "The richness of Scott's visuals, the excellence of the performances and the depth of the themes combine to make a minor masterpiece."
Rotten Tomatoes has a 91% critics score. Roger Ebert calls it "cerebral, elegant".