TIFF Movie Review – Emperor (2012)

Emperor, 2012. 

Directed by Peter Webber. 

Starring Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee JonesEriko Hatsune, Toshiyuki NishidaMasayoshi Haneda and Kaori Momoi.


After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the American occupying forces led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur must decide whether to execute Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal.

The American military occupational force under the command of General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) search for war criminals in post-World War II Japan.  Of particular interest is whether or not the Emperor Hirohito sanctioned the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The investigation into the man believed to be a deity by his own people is given to General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) who also conducts a personal inquest to discover if the Japanese student Aya Shimada (Eriko Hatsune) he fell in love with while in college has survived the carnage of war.

In many ways the love story between General Bonner Bonner and Aya Shimanda as well as the trial setting echoes Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), with the former being a lot more linear in its narrative structure.  At first the romance shown in flashbacks seems to bog down movie but the main plotline eventually does intersect upon Fellers meeting the uncle of his true love who happens to be a general in the Japanese army.  Much effort is taken to provide the Japanese perspective and the American patriotism that normally overpowers the historical retelling is held back by British helmer Peter Webber.

No fault can be made of the authentic production design and the overall acting is believable.  Tommy Lee Jones capitalizes on his brief appearances by entering into his scenes with a swagger that is both endearing and boorish.  Matthew Fox is able to convey a man who carries an emotional heavy burden.  Eriko Hatsune though saddled with being the love interest is able to make the best of her restrictive role.  The trouble lies with the routine nature of the plotline which makes the sincere tale an ordinary one.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★  / Movie ★ ★ ★

Trevor Hogg 

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