An attempt to spice up a true story with fictional characters and events leaves this film feeling artificial. And it doesn't help that the two likeable lead actors never quite crack the surface. But this is still a fascinating moment in history, and the film captures a strong sense of the setting as well as the importance of this urgent meeting of two cultures.
It takes place in August 1945, just after Japan surrenders to the Americans. General MacArthur (Jones) is now charged with determining whether Emperor Hirohito (Kataoka) should be tried for war crimes. So he assigns General Fellers (Fox) to define Hirohito's role. Fellers has experience with Japanese culture: he lived there before the war and fell in love with university student Aya (Hatsune). But he never knew what happened to her, so in addition to working with his translator Takahashi (Haneda) to meet with various wartime officials, he also looks for news about Aya.
There's something fishy about this whole Aya business right from the start, as we doubt that such a high-ranking military officer, charged with such a vitally important task, would spend so much time on his own personal search. We also never really care about Fellers' feelings for Aya, so nothing about this plot-thread and its gauzy flashbacks feels realistic. And sure enough, a bit of research reveals that it's complete fiction. The far more interesting relationship here is between Fellers and Takahashi, which is played with intriguing texture by Fox and especially Haneda but is never properly explored on-screen.
Continue reading: Emperor Review
Following the catastrophic events of World War II which led to the Japanese forces' surrender, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers General Douglas MacArthur charged his Japan expert protégé Bonner Fellers with the task of making the hugely significant decision of whether or not Japanese emperor Hirohito should be tried and executed as a war criminal for the part he played on behalf of his government over the war period. However, his choices are deeply affected by his love for exchange student Aya who he met in the States years previously and subsequently searches for when he reaches Japan. With her beside him, he finds himself developing the insight and wisdom enough to give him the strength to make the major verdict.
This heart-wrenching war film is based on the true events following the surrender of Japan in 1945. Directed by Peter Webber ('Girl with a Pearl Earring', 'Hannibal Rising') and written by Vera Blasi ('Tortilla Soup', 'Woman on Top') and David Klass ('Kiss the Girls', 'Desperate Measures'), 'Emperor' is the mind-blowing story of justice and morality and the role that love serves in making choices about each. It debuted at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and will be release in the US on March 8th 2013.
Director: Peter Webber
Continue: Emperor Trailer
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