Kirsty Griffin
March 15, 2013 at 04:00 AM EDT

Emperor

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
106 minutes
Wide Release Date
03/08/13
performer
Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones
director
Peter Webber
distributor
Lionsgate
genre
Historical
We gave it a B-

In August 1945, the U.S. Army went to Japan, where it took charge of rebuilding the nation it had just destroyed. Set amid the rubble of Tokyo, Emperor captures the moral paradox of that moment. Tommy Lee Jones plays Gen. Douglas MacArthur as a gruffly literate conqueror-statesman who keeps his humanity hidden, and Matthew Fox is all square-jawed silent cunning as Gen. Bonner Fellers, who is investigating whether to try Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal. Emperor explores the delicate postwar dance of revenge, justice, and realpolitik, yet its focus on the issue of Hirohito’s guilt or innocence (did he order the attack on Pearl Harbor? Or did he, in fact, oppose the Japanese military machine?) makes it a rather thin dramatic experience. The film keeps cutting to flashbacks of Fellers’ doomed relationship with a Japanese college student (Eriko Hatsune), and here too the romance never quite transcends the history lesson. B-

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