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Film Review: Emperor

Rating: PG-13
Director: Peter Webber
Screenwriting: David Klass and Vera Blasi
Director of photography: Start Dryburgh
Editing: Chris Plummer
Producers: Gary Foster, Yoko Narahashi and Eugene Nomura;
Distribution: Roadside Attractions
Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes.
Cast: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones, Eriko Hatsune, Masayoshi Haneda, Toshiyuki Nishida,  Colin Moy and Takataro Kataoka.

1As a moderately-budgeted film, the well-organized & executed Peter Webber (Girl with A Pearl Earring) directed drama starring Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox tells of the charge given to Fox’s General Bonner Fellers to investigate whether Japan’s Emperor Hirohito was, in fact, responsible for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor; if found guilty a conviction would result in death by way of War Crimes. Under such an order, Bonner is given only ten days in which to hunt down, question and pull evidence to implicate or exonerate the person who may or may not have been responsible for one of the the most pre-imminent attacks on US soil in history.

So then, the task itself must not have been such an overwhelming project to take on that Feller’s first inclination is to try and re-connect with his romance with Eriko Hatsuno’s Aya Shimada – his true love whom the General met in college…of course, this is the first thing he thinks about…of course it is.  While a nice contained film could have been possibly made from this side story, in the context of Emperor the journey for Bonner to find his true love just seems deflated and tiresome. The side story tends to grind Emperor to a halt and frankly makes you long for scenes dealing with Bonner’s overall job.


For acting work, Matthew Fox and Tommy Lee Jones were handed a lead character which is stuck in an unsolvable puzzle and a supporting lead with not enough time to really be heard. Luckily, Jones’ performance as the brittle and pompous General MacArthur is a fine one. Each scene the actor is in leaps off the screen and helps to break the jolting pace of the picture by giving wonderful direct humor and complicated magnetism. For Matthew Fox, the outcome was somewhat disappointing (perhaps the actor got the sense of what he was up against) as the Lost actor just looks to be out of sorts and anywhere else but in post-WWII Japan. Simply put, Fox looks like he was (like the audience) hoping for something with more gravity.

Overall, Director Peter Webber gives a nice view into the action taking place to bring important World powers to justice but without much force Emperor’s outcome is just a history lesson with some missed side-steps regarding romance that brings this film to its knees.


Fresh Roasted Rating: C

–  Matt Miles, Contributing Writer
Producer of Fresh Roasted Films

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