Sunday, March 24, 2013

Emperor, a Movie Review

I was born at the tail end of the baby boom. Three months later and I would have been classified as Gen X (a scary thought). So WWII has always fascinated me. Of course there was the great music of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. But, just the idea of all the major powers being at war at one time - and many actually working together is an overwhelming thought. I am sure it is easier to look at it in a historic perspective than as a participant. But, I digress.

The main story line of Emperor is General Douglas MacArthur's order from Washington to make the decision as to whether or not Hirohito, the Emperor of Japan should be tried for war crimes, and most likely executed, or should he be pardoned. And, MacArthur has ten days to send his decision back to the president. He assigns this onerous task to one the generals under his command, Bonner Fellers.

This task is not taken lightly. Unlike most of his fellow military cohorts, Fellers speaks Japanese and has an understanding of the culture. Washington, obviously, wants the Emperor hanged for PR reasons if nothing else. MacArthur and Fellers realize that to keep the peace and rebuild Japan, the Emperor must be spared. But, Washington is going to need solid proof he had nothing to do with Japan's involvement in the war. How far Fellers will go for firm proof of the Emperor's involvement or not in the war is impressive. 

This is not a spoiler. Everything so far is revealed in the first fifteen minutes of the film. Determining the truth, finding the proof, and making the decision sends Fellers on a mission into the higher echelon of the Japanese military, government, and royalty. As Fellers pursues the truth about the Emperor, there is a tale in tandem of a haunting lost love Fellers is also seeking.

Matthew Fox plays Fellers well as the wholesome all American guy thrown into the war with an undying duty to his country and respect for Japan. And Tommy Lee Jones steps up to the plate to fill the egotistical shoes of MacArthur, tasked with rebuilding Japan juxtaposed with building his own political clout. We see a heart under the gruff hard ass image he so likes to show.

I enjoyed the film for the story line and the history. Fellers is not intimidated by much, but while trying not insult the honor of the Japanese, he goes to great lengths to seek the truth. How far he will go for firm proof of the Emperor's involvement or not in the war is impressive. He and MacArthur are not willing to make such a decision without hard proof.

The rest is history, at least the main story. The underlying love story is much more complicated.

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