MATTHEW FOX TOMMY LEE JONES
Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones was one of the best aspects of Lincoln and I am thrilled to see Jones back on the big screen so quickly. Once again, Jones is the best thing about the film, although his performance here isn’t as exciting or fiery. Emperor is directed by Peter Webber, who is known for slow moving films like The Girl with the Pearl Earring and Hannibal Rising. Chronologically, Emperor could be a sequel of sorts to what we saw in Pearl Harbor, but don’t expect action sequences or suspense. Jones' name might be listed first on the credits and poster, but this is a Matthew Fox (Alex Cross) vehicle.
After the atomic bomb just settled in Japan, General Douglas MacArthur (Jones) was sent to restore and rebuild Japan, not as a sign of victory but as a gesture of liberation. MacArthur, who appears to have hopes of running for president, is constantly occupied with meetings and taking photographs. He assigned General Bonner Fellers (Fox) to investigate and decide whether or not the Emperor gave the order on Pearl Harbor. Fellers, who has his own agenda and secret ties to Japan, must decide whether to hang a man that the Japanese consider a god or pardon him of his involvement.
The story alone should be enough to get history buffs and those thirsty for more than just average movie watching knowledge interested. What I didn’t find fascinating was this sub-plot of Fellers and his flash-back relationship with a Japanese girl. Emperor actually makes the same mistake as Pearl Harbor was crucified for in focusing more on a romance story than the historical events at hand. Webber takes his time unfolding this story, and while Fellers' character seems to run in circles with investigations, always muddled by his reminiscing, what we yearn to see more of is Jones as MacArthur.
“Do not let him die before we have a chance to hang him,” MacArthur says about a Japanese official who attempted suicide. The film doesn’t really get exciting until MacArthur orders Fellers to bring him the Emperor and we finally get to see all the bits and pieces add up as this man who is supposed to be god-like arrives in front of a “supreme” general and both put away silly characteristics to talk like men. That final scene where resolve is found captures more of what the entire film should have been about. Does it make it worth watching? Perhaps, but this film certainly has good intentions and just isn’t the best story teller.
Final Thought – Jones MacArthur portrayal is the film’s strongest point.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
At the end of World War II, General Douglas MacArthur was sent to Japan as head of the U.S. occupying forces, with the intent of rebuilding the country after the war’s devastation. Emperor is about the General’s decision-making process in determining Emperor Hirohito’s role in the war, and whether he should be tried for war crimes. Tommy Lee Jones plays General MacArthur, who enlists the help of another general, Bonner Fellers, considered to be an expert in Japanese culture, to conduct an investigation into the role the emperor played in the war; for instance, whether he ordered the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Interlacing these scenes among the military are General Fellers’ flashbacks of a young beautiful Japanese woman he was apparently in love with. Immediately on getting his charge from General MacArthur, Fellers gives an order to his translator to find the mysterious woman. During the course of the film, we learn more about their relationship and the complication of her uncle’s holding an important position in the Japanese military, and subsequently, the lovers’ abrupt separation.
Matthew Fox as General Fellers is convincing in his role, and he is able to show a range of emotions that vary, depending on whom he is with: Acquiescent with MacArthur, loving and enchanted with the missing woman, respectful with her uncle, and authoritative with his staff. Jones as MacArthur is essentially one-dimensional. Whether this is an accurate representation of MacArthur’s own personality is unknown to me. He certainly did have enough compassion and social concern to take a progressive approach to reconstruction of Japan after the war, and this was conveyed in the movie by the Jones character.
The film is only mildly engaging, although it is interesting. Grade: C