Just saw Emperor at TIFF tonight. It was an enjoyable, well made,
historical film, but a tad dry. Starring Tommy Lee Jones as General
Douglas MacArthur and Matthew Fox as MacArthur's subordinate officer
General Fellers, it is set against the backdrop of the early occupation
of Japan by U.S. forces after World War 2. MacArthur is faced with a
dilemma: he has to prosecute thirty Japanese war criminals - the
masterminds of the war - but a question of what to do with Emperor
Hirohito looms over him. To leave him alone would invite displeasure
from American public and politicians, to arrest and try him for war
crimes would endanger the occupation and break the tenuous peace.
Jones' MacArthur assigns the task to Matthew Fox's character as he is
an expert on Japan - now Fox's character has only 10 days to
investigate the Emperor's involvement and come to a decision. In the
meantime, the viewers also see flashbacks from Fellers' past, and there
is a subplot involving Feller looking for his lost lover.
Tommy Lee Jones is plainly having lots of fun as the blustering larger- than-life Douglas MacArthur, and Matthew Fox delivers a good performance with moments of extreme intensity. Masayoshi Haneda plays a translator and aide and manages to pull off a role that has dignity despite the harrowed and dishevelled appearance of the character. Eriko Hatsune - the love interest of the film - has a fragile beauty but is too reserved throughout the movie to deliver much of an emotional impact. The film was shot in New Zealand and Japan (in fact it's the first movie to film inside the Japanese Imperial Palace) and it's gorgeous - the ruins of bombed out Tokyo are especially impressive, and of course the Imperial Palace as a backdrop is fascinating.
The quibble I had with the movie is that it tries to create a sense of urgency and suspense, but since it's based on historical events it largely fails. Anyone who has taken history in high school should know how it turned out. With the exception of a couple of scenes, there also isn't much of an emotionally charged drama going on either. Although I enjoyed it, I cannot deny that it moved at a more sedate pace and lacked great urgency and suspense.
Action / Drama / History
Action / Drama / History
A story of love and understanding set amidst the tensions and uncertainties of the days immediately following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. On the staff of General Douglas MacArthur (Jones), the de facto ruler of Japan as Supreme Commander of the occupying forces, a leading Japanese expert, General Bonner Fellers (Fox) is charged with reaching a decision of historical importance: should Emperor Hirohito be tried and hanged as a war criminal? Interwoven is the story of Fellers' love affair with Aya, a Japanese exchange student he had met years previously in the U.S. Memories of Aya and his quest to find her in the ravaged post-war landscape help Fellers to discover both his wisdom and his humanity and enable him to come to the momentous decision that changed the course of history and the future of two nations.
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August 08, 2013 at 02:54 PM