Emperor (film)

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Emperor
Emperor (Film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Webber
Produced by Russ Krasnoff
Gary Foster
Yoko Narahashi
Eugene Nomura
Written by Vera Blasi
David Klass
Based on His Majesty's Salvation 
by Shiro Okamoto
Starring Tommy Lee Jones
Matthew Fox
Eriko Hatsune
Toshiyuki Nishida
Masatoshi Nakamura
Kaori Momoi
Colin Moy
Music by Alex Heffes
Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh
Edited by Chris Plummer
Production
company
Krasnoff Foster Productions
United Performers' Studio
Distributed by Roadside Attractions
Lionsgate (US)
Shochiku Company (Japan)
Release dates
  • September 14, 2012 (2012-09-14) (TIFF)
  • March 8, 2013 (2013-03-08) (US limited)
  • July 27, 2013 (2013-07-27) (Japan)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
Country United States
Japan
Language English
Japanese
Box office $14,667,451[2]

Emperor is a 2012 American-Japanese post-World War II film directed by Peter Webber, marking his first film in five years. Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox star in lead roles as General Douglas MacArthur and Brigadier General Bonner Fellers respectively. It is a joint American and Japanese production.[3]

Plot[edit]

Set during the occupation of Japan, Brigadier-General Bonner Fellers is sent to Japan as a part of the occupation force. Upon his arrival, he is tasked with arresting Japanese war criminals, including Prime Minister Tojo. Before he departs, he meets his Japanese interpreter, Takahashi. Fellers privately orders him to locate his Japanese girlfriend, Aya Shimada. After managing to arrest Tojo after his attempted suicide, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur informs Fellers that Emperor Hirohito can be tried as war criminal. By doing so, the Allied forces would enrage the Japanese and they would face open revolt; but by deposing the Emperor, the Soviets would enter Japan and spread communism. However, the American people want the Emperor to stand trial for Japan's actions during the war. MacArthur informs Fellers that he has ten days to investigate the Emperor. After visiting a local bar, Fellers reflects back to his time in Douglaston College in 1932 when he first met Aya. The next day, Takahashi informs Fellers that Aya's apartment in Tokyo was bombed. Fellers orders him to investigate her hometown, Shizuoka.

Fellers and his staff begin to compile a list of people who were with Emperor Hirohito when the war started. Because none of the Japanese who are friendly to the Americans are among them, they resort to asking Tojo by enticing him to give them information in order to save the Emperor. Fellers travels to Sugano Prison and demands that Tojo gives him three names. He, instead, gives one: Fumimaro Konoe, the former prime minister. Fellers goes to Konoe's home and asks him whether or not the Emperor was responsible for starting the war. Fellers is unable to get any conclusive evidence of the Emperor's innocence. Konoe directs him to Kōichi Kido, Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. Fellers contacts Kido and they arrange to meet. While Fellers is waiting for Kido, he recalls the time before the war when Aya suddenly returned to Japan without word or warning. Takahashi informs Fellers that Kido will not show up. MacArthur, displeased with Fellers' progress, orders him to work quicker.

Fellers recalls when he visited Tokyo in 1940 and reunited with Aya, then a schoolteacher teaching English. He discovers that Aya moved back to Japan as her father became ill and passed away. In a banquet held at MacArthur's residence, Fellers is informed by Brigadier-General Richter that MacArthur is using him as a tool. Richter warns Fellers that regardless of his decision regarding the Emperor, MacArthur will not look bad to the American public. Richter also makes a comment about Fellers having an affinity for Japanese women. Fellers leaves the banquet and demands if Takahashi has revealed Fellers' assignment to Richter; to Feller's relief, he has not. Takahashi reports to Fellers that Shizuoka was bombed; Fellers immediately travels there. On his way there, he thinks back to when he visited Aya in Japan. He recalled when Japanese schoolboys assaulted him because of government propaganda encouraging people to hate foreigners. In Shizuoka, Fellers is devastated by the damage and orders Takahashi to find a list of the dead.

Fellers recalls when he visited Aya's uncle, General Kajima, for assistance in writing a paper on the mindset of the Japanese soldier. During his visit, Kajima insists that if America and Japan were at war, the Japanese would win because of the Japanese soldier's sense of duty to the Emperor. When Fellers returns to Tokyo from Shizuoka, he determines that Teizaburō Sekiya, a member of the Privy Council must be interviewed, however he has to enter the Imperial Palace, which the Americans are not allowed to enter. MacArthur uses his authority as Supreme Commander to allow Fellers to enter the Palace and speak to Sekiya. Sekiya, like Konoe, does not give any conclusive evidence to exonerate the Emperor. Fellers begins to lose faith and almost concludes that the Emperor is guilty until Kido arrives at the headquarters and speaks with him. While Fellers interviews Kido, Richter searches Fellers' office and finds information that he had direct input on the selection of targets for Allied bombing raids and that he ensured that Shizuoka would not be bombed because of his relationship with Aya. Richter immediately submits his findings to MacArthur.

During Fellers' interview with Kido, he discusses the time before the Japanese surrender. During a Supreme Council meeting, it was debated whether or not Japan should surrender. There was a political deadlock between those in favour of surrendering and those who were not. To break the deadlock, the Emperor addressed the Council directly, stating that Japan would surrender. Because he knew there were strong militarists in the army, the Emperor created an audio recording to be broadcast to the Japanese people announcing his order to surrender. Before the recording could be broadcast, a coup was attempted by the militarists and they attacked the Imperial Palace. The Emperor and Kido survived the coup and were able to broadcast the recording. Unfortunately for Fellers, all the other witnesses committed suicide and all records were destroyed, leaving him only with Kido's testimony as evidence. Kido informs Fellers that the Emperor's role is, in actuality, a ceremonial one and that the Emperor was influential in ending the war.

Fellers decides to visit General Kajima. He explains to Kajima that the Japanese people are selfless and capable of great sacrifice as well as unspeakable crimes because of their devotion to a set of values. Kajima does not know whether or not the Emperor is guilty in starting the war but notes his role in ending the war. He gives Fellers a box of folded letters written by Aya to Fellers and learns that Aya had died in one of the Allied bombing raids.

Fellers writes his conclusion stating that it cannot be determined whether or not the Emperor is guilty or innocent in starting the war, but his role in ending the war was significant. He gives his conclusion to MacArthur, who is displeased because of the lack of conclusive evidence. Fellers argues that the Emperor should be exonerated as the Allies agreed that Japan would be allowed to keep the Emperor as the head of state if they surrendered. MacArthur orders Fellers to arrange a meeting between him and the Emperor himself. Before the Emperor arrives, Fellers informs MacArthur of his role in diverting Allied bombers away from Shizuoka. MacArthur replies that because no American lives were lost because of it, he will turn a blind eye. When Emperor Hirohito arrives, he offers himself to be punished rather than Japan. MacArthur states that he has no intention of punishing Japan or Hirohito and rather wishes to discuss the reconstruction of Japan.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Principal photography began in January 2012 in New Zealand.[4]

Release[edit]

The film premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival[5] and saw a limited release in the United States on March 8, 2013. Both Foster and Jones attended a Japan premiere along with several Japanese actors and actresses on July 18, 2013,[6] preceding its opening in the cinemas nationwide in Japan on July 27.[7]

Reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews, with a 31% rating based on 86 reviews on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus 'Despite a typically strong performance from Tommy Lee Jones, Emperor does little with its fascinating historical palate, and is instead bogged down in a cliched romantic subplot.'[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "EMPEROR (12A)". The Works UK Distribution. British Board of Film Classification. September 10, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Emperor (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. June 13, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  3. ^ IMDb: Emperor - Country Linked 2013-06-05
  4. ^ Bettinger, Brendan (November 2, 2011). "Peter Webber to Direct WWII Love Story EMPEROR; Filming Begins January 2012". Collider.com. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  5. ^ Vlessing, Etan (August 14, 2012). "Toronto 2012: Paul Andrew Williams’ 'Song for Marion' to Close 37th Edition". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  6. ^ ""Emperor" Japan premiere". Keizo Mori (UPI). 2013-07-18. Retrieved 2013-07-26. 
  7. ^ "Fox tackles history in ‘Emperor’". Giovanni Fazio (The Japan Times). 2013-07-25. Retrieved 2013-07-26. 
  8. ^ Emperor - Rotten Tomatoes

External links[edit]