Movie Review: EMPEROR

A gripping tale of love and honor forged between fierce enemies of war, EMPEROR unfolds the story, inspired by true events, of the bold and secret moves that won the peace in the shadows of postwar Japan.

Tommy Lee Jones had me at “Let's show them some good old-fashioned American swagger.” Jones’ gruff portrayal of General MacArthur in this post WWII film steals the spotlight in a historical drama sure to captivate audiences. Emperor is masterfully done, balancing the weight of a daunting task with the personal tribulations of a love story with a woman as well as a country.

I am a fan of WWII era stories and films, and this stands out as a favorite because of the quiet focus on a deeply emotional story rather than highlight big budget action sequences. This brilliantly shot film had me invested from the beginning and left me crying more than just a few tears at the end. Emperor pays tribute not only to the unconventional work of General MacArthur, played to perfection by Jones, but also a homage to Japan and its people. Matthew Fox delved deep into the history of his character General Fellers, a man who was given the task of deciding if the Emperor of Japan was guilty of commanding the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This is a daunting task that does not need a sugar coating of Hollywood dramatization. Director Peter Webber lets the actions and choices of the characters speak for themselves without resorting to movie gimmicks to falsely exaggerate the importance. The result is a masterfully done film that reflects on a culture as well as humanity. MacArthur is often portrayed as reactionary, and is a controversial figure in history for his opinionated views and seemingly irrational decisions. In Emperor this politically stubborn view of him is shown, but is for once shadowed by his immense empathy for the people of Japan.

You cannot tell that this is a relatively low budget film, for Hollywood standards, for the cinematography is breathtaking and the CGI is very well done. The music by Alex Heffes is masterfully done, enveloping audience members into the 1940s era with ease. And even though his role is but a small one, Takatarô Kataoka deserves recognition for his humble performance as the Emperor of Japan.

‘Emperor’ is historical storytelling at its best. A stunning look into a section of the past unknown to most, this film captures the quiet essence of humanity during one of the worst of times in history.

4 Stars

EMPEROR is directed by Peter Webber (GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING), from a screenplay by David Klass (DESPERATE MEASURES, KISS THE GIRLS) and Vera Blasi (WOMAN ON TOP, TORTILLA SOUP). Presented by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, EMPEROR opens in theaters March 8, 2013

Matthew Fox (WORLD WAR Z, ALEX CROSS) joins with Academy Award® winner Tommy Lee Jones (LINCOLN, THE FUGITIVE), newcomer Eriko Hatsune and award-winning Japanese star Toshiyuki Nishida to bring to life the American occupation of Japan in the perilous and unpredictable days just after Emperor Hirohito's World War II surrender. As General Douglas MacArthur (Jones) suddenly finds himself the de facto ruler of a foreign nation, he assigns an expert in Japanese culture – and psychological warfare – General Bonner Fellers (Fox), to covertly investigate the looming question hanging over the country: should the Japanese Emperor, worshiped by his people but accused of war crimes, be punished or saved? Caught between the high-wire political intrigue of his urgent mission and his own impassioned search for the mysterious school teacher (Hatsune) who first drew him to Japan, Fellers can be certain only that the tricky subterfuge about to play out will forever change the history of two nations and his heart.

The story of EMPEROR is based on the resonant, real events of 1945, when General MacArthur took control of a shell-shocked Japan on behalf of the U.S and Bonner Fellers worked covertly to investigate the Emperor's fate while the future of the nation hung in the balance. Entwined with an against-the-odds romance, the story traverses the conflicting loyalties between heart and homeland, between revenge and justice, as the world rebuilds from the ruins of war.