EMPEROR (Peter Webber). 104 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (March 29). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
The photograph of General Douglas MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito after the end of the Second World War represents a dense knot of history. MacArthur arrived as a conqueror, the U.S. having nuked Japan into surrender, to meet with Hirohito and establish a proper peace - and quietly determine whether the emperor would stand trial for war crimes.
For whatever reason, the makers of Emperor have chosen not to engage directly with that weighty narrative, or even think too much about MacArthur himself, relegating him to a supporting role in his own story. That's a shame, because Tommy Lee Jones really seems to have a lock on the guy.
Instead, Emperor focuses on General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), to whom MacArthur assigns the job of gauging Hirohito's (Takataro Kataoka) complicity in the attack on Pearl Harbor. But Fellers is more interested in finding out what happened to the Japanese woman (Eriko Hatsune) with whom he fell in love at college, long before the war.
That clunky subplot becomes even more annoying once you know it was invented by the filmmakers, presumably to give us an issue we can relate to within the drama. The idea that we might have preferred a movie that actually delivers the historical drama it promises - it's called Emperor, for crying out loud - seems never to have occurred to them.