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Emperor

By MARSHALL WALKER LEE
Talk about burying the lead. Hirohito, the enigmatic Japanese monarch whose endorsement of criminal atrocities during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II is now a matter of historical fact, doesn’t actually appear on screen until the final minutes of Peter Webber’s dour period drama. According to Shinto tradition, the emperor is arahitogami, “a living god,” which poses a problem for Allied Commander Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) and Gen. Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), the men tasked with investigating Hirohito and bringing Japanese war criminals to justice. “What the hell do you say to a god?” asks MacArthur. More importantly, what happens if you put a deity on trial in a country teetering on the edge of revolution? Unfortunately, Weber can’t stop preaching cross-cultural sensitivity long enough to explore Hirohito’s cult of personality or the emperor’s actual role in implementing military strategy. As Fellers, Fox strikes a note of buried, simmering regret, and Jones is more engaged than usual as MacArthur, but neither actor has enough to do. Dramatic stakes are in short supply until the final act, when a half-cooked subplot involving Fellers’ love affair with a Japanese student is finally abandoned. When the emperor arrives, the movie really starts to hum. Too bad the credits are already beginning to roll.
 

Special Note

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  • Running Time:
  • Release Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Critic's Score: B-
  • Watch the trailer
 

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