Emperor takes place immediately after Japan surrendered to the Ally forces following World War II. The movie encompasses the 10 days that General Brandon Fellers, played by Matthew Fox, has to determine whether or not the Emperor of Japan was implicit in the bombing of Pearl Harbor while at the same time trying to find his true love. The outcome to his inquiry could have a lasting geo-political outcome, and both Fullers and General Douglas MacArthur, played by Tommy Lee Jones, know this. Japan is hanging by a thread, and if the Emperor is indeed indicted as a war criminal and hung, than the country could fall into revolt and utter disarray. Emperor is a good historical film but lacks the necessities to be seen as anything that will come close to winning an Oscars.
The writing seemed as though it could have been an episode of Law and Order', which makes sense since one of the co-writers were part of the "˜Law and Order: Criminal Intent' team. Literally, in the interrogation scenes I was waiting for any one of thecast members to pop up. There were some really, really good dialogue, but when you watch a movie like this, you hope for more than a couple of memorable lines.
The best acting came from the Japanese actors. Tommy Lee Jones, while a fan favorite, really only plays Tommy Lee Jones. Despite the fact that he is playing General Douglas MacArthur, who never spoke with a southern accent, Jones never loses his Texan drawl. There are a few scenes where you can tell he is trying, but overall he is Tommy Lee Jones playing Tommy Lee Jones infused Douglas MacArthur. Matthew Fox does a decent job as General Fellers, tasked with uncovering the truth about the Emperor's involvement. Yet, once again, Fox never disappears into the character. Maybe I have been spoiled by the likes of Tom Hanks and Daniel Day Lewis, but I want to see something more than an actor in a costume. I might also be lucky that I never saw any of the Japanese actors in anything before this film. Toshiyuki Nishida, who plays General Kajima, and Eriko Hatsune, playing Aya Shimada, do a fantastic job, and for me, it's where the real emotional ties lay. Eriko portrays just the right balance of innocence, naivete, and love that does have you root for her and Matthew Fox to reunite at the end.
Peter Webber's directing is never bad in this film, but it is also never great. When you watch a Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese film you can pause the film at almost any time and have a remarkable scene on your screen, not so with this movie. It is very good in multitude of parts, and I feel that he got the best performance out of his cast that he possibly could, but there were a few scenes that felt very cliché.
I would recommend this movie to any history or World War II fan. For anyone else, I'd look elsewhere.