Emperor review by George Hooper - Cinema Paradiso
There seems to be a Japanese trend going around Hollywood with this years The Wolverine also deciphering Japanese heritage (albeit not very well) for the sake of a good story. Emperor however excels at using Japanese culture to form a taut political picture showing the folly of both Japan and America during the Second World War.
Following Japanese surrender, General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) is sent to Japan to conduct an investigation into the Emperor of Japan with the ultimate decision of whether or not he be tried for war crimes resting right in his lap. However the film follows General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), the investigations lead investigator, a conflicted man whose experience with Japan before the war proves essential to finding a solution.
While the film does feel ever so slightly biased, Emperor is a historically relevant thriller with a good sense of moral ambiguity, a slow burning detective story into the destruction of a country and the collateral damage all around. Vera Blasi and David Klass’ script brings colour to this dreary tale bringing beauty and devastation out in a single image.
Director Peter Webber tells a convincing love story inside a political thriller with ease, never mixing the two up while marrying them into a bigger story, the story of Japanese reawakening and journey to repair.
Fox is excellent as Fellers, A tortured man failing to get past something from his past and Jones is always good when he gets to play the grouch and MacArthur, a true politician in Army uniform can be vindictive when he needs to be. However the real scene stealer is Japan itself, a place of harmony in flashbacks and one of destruction and fear years later. It’s really a film about look and feel, a vision of Japan and Fellers at their best and their worst.