Hey, screenwriters and filmmakers, here’s a challenge for you. Make a movie about WWII, but with no battles. Make it a mystery, but assume the audience knows how it turns out. Make it a love story, but tell it completely in flashbacks. Make it a film about soldiers, but no gutsy infantryman in trenches, just generals in big headquarters. Make it a detective story, but no shooting, the detective never beats anybody up, and all he has to do is hand in a typed report. Oh, and don’t be boring.
Sound difficult? Amazingly, in the new film Emperor, director by Peter Webber (Girl With A Pearl Earring), and screenwriters David Klass (Kiss The Girls) and Vera Blasi (Woman On Top) do more than make this potential sleeper not boring, they make it an engrossing story. This is done by focusing on the internal conflicts of the man assigned to come up with a decision which could affect the fate of a nation and the lives of hundreds of thousands.
That man, General Bonner Fellers, played by Matthew Fox, is given a mission by General Douglas MacArthur, played by Tommy Lee Jones, to covertly investigate the looming question hanging over America and Japan: should the Japanese Emperor, worshiped by his people but accused of war crimes, be punished or saved? Fellers, an expert in Japanese culture and psychological warfare, negotiates the high-wire political intrigue of his urgent mission; in-fighting on the general staff; and also has to deal with his personal search for the mysterious school teacher, played by newcomer Eriko Hatsune, who first drew him to Japan.
Fellers has to work covertly to investigate the Emperor’s fate while the future of the nation hangs in the balance. Entwined with an against-the-odds romance, the story traverses the conflicting loyalties between heart and homeland, between revenge and justice, as the world recovers from years of war.