It's days after the bombs have been dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the Japanese army have surrounded. General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) leads some of the US army on the ground, attempting to maintain a sense of peace in post-war Japan, but he also assigns General Fellers (Matthew Fox) a potentially volatile assignment; Fellers has ten days to find as much evidence as possible in the case for or against the Emperor of Japan that will ultimately decide if he is to be tried as a war criminal, and potentially executed for those crimes.
What should have been a fantastic ticking clock thriller set against a very important moment in our global history, Emperor instead spends too much time dragging its heels. An investigation into a nation that is filled with people who would rather die than be dishonourable to their emperor, had the movie focused solely on Fellers hunt for the truth, and made room for some artistic licence in the name of entertainment, this had massive potential. Instead, we spend more time with Fellers having multiple, prolonged flashbacks to his pre-war relationship with Japanese love interest Aya (Eriko Hatsune), and his parallel investigations into whether or not she was killed during the bombings.
Fox’s performance is all too forgettable, just as bland and interchangeable a leading man as… whatshisname… that guy from that thing. Jones is as solid as ever, but we’ve seen his “grumpy old man in a position of power” shtick a million times before, and done a million times better. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Emperor is just how great a movie there could have been, if only the writer and director were willing to take a few risks. Instead, we’ve got a film that has more interesting stuff going on in the background than in the story we’re actually being told.
Review by Rory Cashin | 16:23 | Tuesday 11th September 2012 | Movie Review