Emperor (2012)

Saw the movie Emperor today, a movie in which Tommy Lee Jones chewed a little bit of scenery as Douglas MacArthur, but contrary to the advertising he was really a secondary character to a certain General Bonner Fellers, the guy who historically decided Emperor Hirohito would not be prosecuted in the the post-WWII Japanese tribunal, and whom I have just looked up on Wikipedia and discovered to have actually been a bit of a John Birch crazy, which is kind of sad.  Also the film, which was about this decision, really wasn’t accurate at all.

What apparently the real story consisted of wouldn’t have suited the movie director Peter Webber was trying to make.  It wasn’t that he minded admitting to the complications of not wanting to prosecute a guy simply because from a practical standpoint it would be a really bad idea; on the contrary, that was major enough a point in this movie.  But he still wanted a certain mood, a feeling of a man trying to do the right thing in such a way that the movie wouldn’t have worked if said man hadn’t been kept honest, and the historical theory is apparently that said man did not keep it honest.  I was pretty sure even before looking anything up that the romantic subplot was pure fiction, and one would think it an annoyance, except that in the end the existence of a fictional love interest and her uncle served a vital role in giving us a look into those Japanese who weren’t their country’s leaders, something this movie through multiple sources tried not to forget about, though it wasn’t easy for it to remember.  In an ironic contrast to Tommy Lee Jones, actress Eriko Hatsune while working within the constraints of traditional Japanese reserve still did enough to do a little outshining of her own.    Not that it was that hard to outshine Matthew Fox, though; though he did deliver the emotion in the one scene where he really needed to he was a touch wooden at other times.

This is an effective film, if only thanks to Webber’s skill.  But one wishes during the credits that it hadn’t tried to pass itself off as history.


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