FILM REVIEW: Emperor
A movie where history hangs heavy in the air, Emperor is probably not the film you're expecting.
Set after the conclusion of the Second World War, with smoke still clouding the skies over a ruined Tokyo, Japanese expert Gen. Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) must decide whether Emperor Hirohito drove his country to the war. Urging him on is Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, he's the commander playing politics with the post-war recovery.As Fellers navigates Kafkaesque levels of bureaucracy to reach the emperor, he also becomes distracted by his own tie to the country, specifically a Japanese woman named Aya (Eriko Hatsune) from his past.
Matthew Fox appears as General Bonner Fellers in the film Emperor. (Kristy Griffin/Mongrel Media)
Emperor is a stilted chamber piece of a film: not a bracing look at America's attempts to do right by country it crippled, but more a melodramatic romance. Every moment the case against Hirohito moves forward, Fellers gazes off into the sky and we're treated to another flashback of his courtship of Aya (whom he met while she was a college exchange student in the U.S.). Their connection gives the film an air of tragedy, but the short slivers of their relationship we glimpse offer little insight into what first drew these two together.
Those tempted by the idea of Jones playing the iconic Gen. MacArthur will be similarly disappointed. As lost as James Franco was in the land of Oz, Jones equally underplays the role of the ambitious general.
Near the beginning of the film — after the file footage of the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima have faded — MacArthur appears to rally his troops, who are landing on Japanese soil. Sticking a corncob pipe in his mouth, he declares: "Let's show them some American swagger!" Unfortunately, it's something Emperor has in short supply.
RATING: 2 out of 5
Tommy Lee Jones as Gen. Douglas MacArthur, left, and Isao Natsuyagi as Japanese government official Teizaburo Sekiya in the film Emperor. (Kristy Griffin/Mongrel Media)
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