Post-World War 2 drama with Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew Fox Discuss this article

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With Japan’s cities still smoking, the post-WWII US occupation begins in earnest: General Douglas MacArthur (the effortlessly lordly Tommy Lee Jones) dons his sunglasses and descends to the tarmac with the curt order, ‘Let’s show them some good old-fashioned American swagger.’ The collision of this man with the surrendered Hirohito (Takatarô Kataoka), viewed by his people as a living god and unaccustomed to eye contact, is the stuff of legend.

An excellent movie about their meeting – Alexander Sokurov’s The Sun – already exists, emphasising the fallen leader’s strangeness. Here, those humbling scenes play more like Downton Abbey outtakes, bruised honour chafing with oh-no-he-didn’t gruffness.

It’s a moment big enough to dwell on, the hard man finding his penchant for peace. So why does Emperor push the real drama aside for a thoroughly misjudged central plot involving MacArthur’s number two, Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox, a weight-free presence), tasked with privately assessing Hirohito’s culpability? Worse, the movie ladles on a gooey subplot involving Fellers’ abandoned Japanese lover, a painfully obvious metaphor for learning to love the enemy. Director Peter Webber, who once mined social unease from the painterly Girl with a Pearl Earring, is out of his depth; this is a movie in desperate need of a no-nonsense approach.

By Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out Doha,


  • Duration: 105
  • Released: Thu, 25 Apr
  • Classification: PG15
  • Language: English
  • Director: Peter Webber
  • Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew Fox, Eriko Hatsune

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