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Following the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, American forces
lead by General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) and General Bonner
Fellers (Matthew Fox) are tasked with finding out if the Emperor of
Japan is guilty of war crimes. Fellers particularly knows the culture
of Japan, having fallen in love with a Japanese woman in college. While
he tries to speak with the Emperor, surely an impossible task, he
searches for the woman he loves.
"Emperor" is an impressive historical drama and unexpectedly poignant love story. General Fellers' story is one of the least known but most compelling stories of World War Two, and while the film takes several steps away from the truth, it brings to light both what the American military power and the Japanese culture had to go through at the end of one of the most internationally volatile periods in history.
Matthew Fox gives the best performance of his film career as Fellers. He conveys the sadness of a man who is searching for what may as well be a forbidden love and also faces the difficult task of speaking with the Emperor of Japan, who is viewed as a God by his people. Jones doesn't look anything like Douglas MacArthur but shows the confidence and power of a man in charge of the largest military force in the world. It wouldn't have been a surprise if Jones had been nominated for an Oscar for this film instead of Lincoln last year.
The biggest question once the credits roll is this: who is the "Emperor" to which the title alludes to? Is it the Emperor of Japan, or MacArthur himself? Power may corrupt, but can it be beneficial? Historical dramas should make the viewer as such questions.
not impressive, not great or extraordinary. in few parts didactic, maybe fake - in essence it is an American exercise for understand and present an event. melodramatic, in other parts. but certainly, beautiful. only beautiful. a precise and honest puzzle of nuances. source of its beauty - the measure. the fragile line between love story and war story, the vision of conquer and the occupied people about recent past. the beauty of performance, as silk fly. it is not exactly a film about war but about basis of peace. a film about justice and the past as fundamental ingredient of future. and it can be a surprise. a good script, a smart director and two actors who can do more than silhouette of role. grace of performance - this is the best definition for this movie. so, it is not a bad idea to see it. for each viewer it can be a surprise.
From a historical perspective, Emperor is a very fascinating film. When
it comes to the War in the Pacific, we seldom hear anything about
Emperor Hirohito and the matter of whether he will be tried or not.
From a movie standpoint, this also happens to be a good film. It's
emotional, has a great script, and incredible acting. I was a little
surprised with the romantic subplot, since I was not expecting that but
I enjoyed it.
Peter Webber's film takes place right the Japanese surrender in World War Two. General Douglas MacArthur has a tough choice here. Does he exonerate or incriminate Emperor Hirohito knowing full well if he does try Hirohito, they may be a bloody riot on his hands.
In my opinion, I found the acting to be excellent. Tommy Lee Jones was fantastic as MacArthur and I believe he captured the essence of MacArthur. Matthew Fox as General Bonner Fellers also does a good job as he puts together a report stating his beliefs about Hirohito.
Overall, Emperor is a great film, especially from a historical perspective. Obviously being a Hollywood film, not everything is entirely accurate. But they do a good job in getting the story across. This is a story about a decision that could change lives and even cultures. A powerful film indeed. I rate this film 9/10.
As a history buff I enjoyed this film. It's a thoughtful and (for the
most part) balanced view of the dilemma facing MacArthur and the
American occupation of what to do about Emperor Hirohito at the end of
the Pacific war. The American public and the Justice Department want
the emperor tried as a war criminal and most likely hanged, while
MacArthur knows he needs the emperor and his mystical appeal to the
Japanese as a veritable god to effect the enormous political and social
changes that he and the occupation authorities are planning for
post-war Japan. In addition, the United States is beginning to see
Japan as a potential ally in east Asia as relations with the Soviet
Union deteriorate and the Chinese civil war continues. But MacArthur
has his eye on the Presidency in 1948 and so he instructs his associate
Brig. General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) to evaluate in only 10 days
whether Hirohito should be arrested and tried as a war criminal, thus
displacing some of the anger of the American electorate onto Fellers if
Hirohito is not tried. The 10-day evaluation period comprises a search
for Hirohito's associates to solicit exonerating information about the
emperor's wartime culpability and constitutes the focus of the film.
Tommy Lee Jones plays Gen. MacArthur and he conveys the necessary swagger and command presence (see "The Fugitive") that the imperious general wore like a second skin. He doesn't have MacArthur's famous speech diction, and in this regard Gregory Peck made a better MacArthur. Matthew Fox makes a very conscientious Gen. Fellers, and the Japanese actors, who are obscure to us but famous in Japan, do a marvelous job of portraying dignified, protective, demure (dare I say it: inscrutable) imperial officials who cannot explicitly exonerate the emperor but neither can they point to incriminating evidence. The emperor's role in 1930s-1940s militaristic Japan was indeed inscrutable; he did more than simply rubber-stamp the militarists' aggressive plans but his responsibility as head of state in such a government and culture was hard to evaluate, and the Japanese officials Fellers interrogated said as much. It is, however, interesting to note that more recent histories of Hirohito's role in wartime Japan have suggested his culpability was greater than earlier thought. In the film Gen. Fellers uses Hirohito's role in overcoming Japan's August 1945 Cabinet deadlock by directly speaking to the Japanese people to "endure the unendurable" to justify maintaining the emperor's role in post-war Japan, and MacArthur agrees which allows him to meet with the emperor, have that famous photo taken with just the two of them, and then proceed to unify the Japanese under the emperor's continuing presence to effect his reforms and to make Japan a U.S. ally in the post-war world.
It is interesting to note that some of the same political (cold-war) issues were confronted in Stanley Kramer's "Judgment at Nuremberg"; some of the U.S. occupation officials in Germany were advising the prosecutors to be lenient with some of the Nazi judges on trial because Germany was going to be needed as an ally against the Soviets. Was "justice" conferred on Hirohito? Probably not, according to some recent post-war histories, but as "Emperor" honestly depicts, both the senior Japanese leaders and the American occupation officials, most of all MacArthur, realized that Japan could not be rebuilt and reformed, at least not as quickly or as easily, without the emperor's presence as a unifying symbol, albeit a de-divinized one, in post-war Japan.
Matthew Fox and Tommy Lee Jones play polarising American WW2 army
generals to a tee in Emperor, the compellingly true story of the
aftermath of the war in Japan, and the concerted US effort to compile
enough evidence to convict Japanese Emperor Hirohito of war crimes.
Trained on a seldom-acknowledged aspect of mankind's greatest battle,
Emperor infuses a grand story with intimate relationships, making for a
superb addition to the voluminous library of war on film.
While Tommy Lee Jones relishes in playing every Tommy Lee Jones character ever (stealing all the best lines in the process) as the hard-nosed but cunning General MacArthur, Fox delivers a more grounded and arresting performance as Bonner Fellers, a man torn between his moral obligations and his duty to the army, and to an American public crying out for blood.
Director Peter Webber infuses a romantic subplot with Fellers' Japanese girlfriend Aya (Eriko Hatsune) neatly, filling a role but never interjecting into a story that, quite frankly, is underscored by the power of men post-war. When MacArthur finally comes face-to-face with the Emperor after an excruciating build-up, the scene's emotional force and intense interplay perfectly resonate the best attributes of this vastly underrated drama.
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This film tells a fascinating story in fine style, but it is difficult
to see how anyone thought it was big screen material. Its box office
takings were predictably low and it was in theatres so briefly that I
had to catch it on DVD which was certainly a worthwhile endeavour.
In 1945, General Douglas MacArthur was made Supreme Commander in American- occupied Japan and one of his first and most momentous decisions was whether or not to execute Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal. For most Americans, there was no debate: Hirohito was the man who endorsed the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor. But, whether or not he backed the war, a case could be made that he was crucially instrumental in bringing about the peace by ordering the Japanese to surrender. Furthermore the hanging of the emperor - still revered by most Japanese as a deity - could well lead to an explosion of violence that would make the occupation by the Americans and the revival of the shattered nation immensely more difficult.
MacArthur commissioned Brigadier General Bonner Fellers to make a study of the emperor's complicity and make a recommendation on execution. Fellers was someone who knew the Japanese well and had considerable respect for their ancient culture. Indeed, before the war, he had fallen in love with a Japanese woman studying in the United States and, even after the war, was anxious to see her again.
This amazing story is told respectfully by British director Peter Webber and writers Brazilian Vera Blasi and American David Klass, drawing on Shiro Okamoto's book "His Majesty's Salvation", in a film that even-handedly represents Japanese perspectives of the time. The acting is first-rate with Matthew Fox (best-known for the TV series "Lost") giving a sensitive performance as Fellers and Tommy Lee Jones perfectly cast as the swaggering MacArthur. Many excellent Japanese actors contribute, notably the lovely Eriko Hatsune as Fellers' girlfriend. Shot on locations in both New Zealand and Japan, high production values make this an admirable viewing experience.
The movie lacks the fast-paced action that many expect from a visit to the cinema and arguably it is overly sympathetic to the Japanese position and somewhat saccharine in its treatment of the romance, but it is a real pleasure to see a work that tells a little- known story of such consequence so well.
I was very moved by this film as a History Buff I found the Insight in
to Japanese culture to be very Insightful and Enlightening.You don,t
find much in the way of film in regards to World War 2 Japan and the
culture Surrounding His Majesty. The choice to have Tommy Lee Jones
play General MC Arthur the Supreme Commander of all Ali ed Forces was
the right one In my Books.I saw him Play Thaddeus Stevens in Daniel Day
Lewis,s Lincoln and many other films he is a very capable Actor.
I gave this film 10 out of a possible 10 stars. I found the look in the inner workings of the Empire truly Educational. Though I would not recommend this film for any one under 13 due to the dark references and some Violent seen,s. also any one under 13 will not get a lot of the Historical Data included in this movie it is very involved.
Def worth a watch for any one who is in to History like me
It is an interesting historical document with excellent photography
begins as a thriller, it is like a romantic movie and soon turns to the
historical document. The romantic part but lost interest and brings a
dimension to the story, hinders the main storyline, it seems an
unnecessary addition that does not interest or his principal. Maybe
without that part set had just being too dense, too "male" and had far
from a wider audience, it does not matter too much, each director has
the right to choose the elements that best thought to work in the film
and not always they are liked by all viewers.
The Boot "Emperor" is just right and the resolution is perfect. As a historical film works as a perfectly oiled clock (thanks largely to Tommy Lee Jones and the Japanese side) as thriller starts well, engaging the audience and prepares for the end. There is a lot of intensity but it works.
As for the film technical aspects, this mount has a well-conducted, managed a locker and a photograph of Japan swept halfway between the old productions and digital advances of today.
"Emperor" is a correct romantic / historical drama different from what we're used to seeing, for anyone interested in history and especially in WW2 and its aftermath is forced to see it.
I had to view "Emperor" twice before rendering a judgment. The first time went by. Not so much in any way, but something lingered. In the meantime, I visited Japan and read the Pulitzer prize- winning book by Herbert Bix: Hirohito and The Making of Modern Japan. The second viewing was thus clearly different. This film is much like a chapter torn out of the entire book. No wonder some viewers find the film "dry", "textbook-like", or with some other unsatisfactory notes. I believe I can tell why. While the book lays an excellent ground on why we should care about this man-god called and believed by most Japanese as "Emperor, Son of The Sun", if we want to understand this part of human history, the film chooses to disregard the background and assume that the viewers are already interested. This well-made film fails at making us care enough, except the ones already do. I am one of the ones who do care. The film delicately tells a story of a great nation forced on its knees. A pain of a 2,000-year-old nation being dominated by a very young superpower with no real culture of its own. A tough choice between sacrificing oneself or the Emperor they claim to be so devoted to with their lives. However, the heart of this film is also quite well-portrayed. It is that a sheer power is always submissive to a great culture. The American leadership chose not to destroyed Japan not only because it was strategically wrong, but also because the culture of Japan was and is one of the triumphs of all mankind. Destroying such a human creation is to destroy a portion of oneself. I think this film is clear on this very point, all is forgiven.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Japan still had over six million soldiers under arms when their empire surrendered after the dropping of the second atomic bomb on the country on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. This film details how the decision about the fate of emperor Hirohito was arrived at. Japan's cities and industrial base had been virtually bombed out of existence and Russia had invaded part of its empire as well.
This film should resonate with South Africans as it is about the transition from fascism to democracy - and how certain leaders were saved to lead that democracy.
The way in which the American troops apprehended the top Japanese leaders (like General Togo) in the course of one night made me think about how the Apartheid police used to descend simultaneously on our leadership in a short space of time and eviscerate our liberation movements swiftly and with Teutonic efficiency. I'll never forget fortuitously meeting Dr Farouk Meer outside Dormerton post office one morning after one his spells of detention. I mentioned to him that the South African Medical Council's approval of segregated medical facilities rendered that organisation unfit to do its job. He repeated what I said. There was a fasciculation on his face and his speech was a bit slurred. I felt for him.
He told me that the Apartheid police were now not just targeting the leadership they were going for the second and third tier of activists as well. The ubiquitous informer network kept people under tight surveillance. There was little one could say or do back then that they did not seem to know about with alarming alacrity and they harassed you.
The Americans held the view that the emperor of Japan had authorised the war against the American, Dutch, French and British possessions in Asia; these Western empires had conquered much of Asia including countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaya and Burma. Therefore he should be hanged as a criminal.
There is a telling scene where a Japanese leader tells the American investigator, General Fellers, (played by Matthew Fox) who leads the team charged with deciding on the fate of the emperor that none of the US, British, French or Dutch leaders had been tried for bombarding, terrorising and conquering Asian countries which had then become part of their empires. The West had held onto their conquests by preventing the growth of democracy and by denying the conquered their human rights. The Japanese male says that the European empires' example was simply being emulated by his country. The American had no answer.
Interwoven in this sensitively told, well thought-out and interesting story is a tale of love the love that the investigator (who had written a pre-war report on the psychology of the Japanese soldier) had for a Japanese student whom he had met at an American university. One can deduce that the American was a senior member of US Military Intelligence.
Japanese culture values very highly the ethic of hard work, a sense of honour and responsibility, order and cleanliness, a sense of duty, loyalty, respect, patriotism, dignity and protocol, even if in preserving these values, death might ensue. Japan was ruined after World War II and one would have expected that the country would take generations to recover, as happened with so many countries which had eventually won their freedom from the Free West. Perhaps some of the values that the Japanese hold dear helped them to finally reject the martial path that had led to disaster and to rebuild their people, their education system, their economy and their country into what it is today.
At the end of World War II, the Allies were desperate to ensure that the defeated fascist powers would be rebuilt and again become bulwarks against the communists (but this time fettered bulwarks). The Reds were undermining the strangle-hold that the 'Free West' had on most of the planet and its conquered peoples; the West had in its clutches most of the world's resources from gold to diamonds to oil to platinum. At the end of the day, the victorious western European empires were not all that different from the blood-thirsty fascist empires that they had crushed.
The Americans, headed by General MacArthur, (portrayed with flamboyant panache by Tommy Lee Jones) were in a very difficult place. It was amazing for me to see the American investigator walking alone through the rubble of bombed Japanese cities and among gaunt, haggard, hungry Japanese families.
During the pre-war period in both Japan and Germany, those who had opposed the war-mongers were often bloodily murdered and the people of both countries were terrorised into submission; brainwashed and conquered populations became pawns in the grimy hands of the villainous dictators and the gangster elites who were determined to destroy and loot other countries and empires. Now the Japanese thugs stayed their blood-stained hands and did not seek revenge on the lone American. (He is, however, beaten up when he drinks alone in a Japanese bar).
The movie demonstrates a remarkable degree of respect for the challenges faced by both the Japanese and the Americans. During the era of total European hegemony ie. the pre war period and even the era after that, the non Europeans were regarded by many Europeans as filthy, rather retarded, servile, nauseating, primitive apes: not quite human; not quite 'normal'; certainly not 'civilised' (what-ever that might mean). Many non whites were, and are, rather ashamed of who they are and even more ashamed of the people whose colour and culture they happen to share. They appear to derive great pleasure from denigrating and dishonouring the non white peoples to whites whose respect they crave. They spend much of their time trying to escape their skins.
I am so glad that I saw this film.
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