A story of love and understanding set amidst the tensions and uncertainties of the days immediately following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. On the staff of General Douglas MacArthur (Jones), the de facto ruler of Japan as Supreme Commander of the occupying forces, a leading Japanese expert, General Bonner Fellers (Fox) is charged with reaching a decision of historical importance: should Emperor Hirohito be tried and hanged as a war criminal? Interwoven is the story of Fellers’ love affair with Aya, a Japanese exchange student he had met years previously in the U.S. Memories of Aya and his quest to find her in the ravaged post-war landscape help Fellers to discover both his wisdom and his humanity and enable him to come to the momentous decision that changed the course of history and the future of two nations.









Film information

Genre: , ,
Starring: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Release date: Mar 8, 2013
MPAA rating: Rated PG-13 for violent content, brief strong language and smoking (historical)
Movie Reviews:
  • 75
    Chicago Sun-Times - by Richard Roeper
    As is the case with most of the elements in Emperor, the cliches are relatively few and spaced apart, and the tearjerking and profound moments are authentic and well-earned. more

  • 75
    New York Observer - by Rex Reed
    The real star of the film is the magnetic, forceful and charismatic Matthew Fox, who steals the entire film as easily as if he were pitching a softball. more

  • 67
    Austin Chronicle - by Louis Black
    The film bites off much more than it can chew, raising far more issues and personalities than it can successfully weave into one overall narrative. more

  • 67
    Entertainment Weekly - by Owen Gleiberman
    Emperor explores the delicate postwar dance of revenge, justice, and realpolitik, yet its focus on the issue of Hirohito's guilt or innocence (did he order the attack on Pearl Harbor? Or did he, in fact, oppose the Japanese military machine?) more

  • 67
    Tampa Bay Times - by Steve Persall
    Emperor is also one of those movies in which the most intriguing occurrences are revealed by "what-happened-to . . ." title cards at the finale. more

  • 63
    Washington Post - by Mark Jenkins
    This drama is serious and well made but will appeal primarily to those with an interest in the devastated setting (1945 Tokyo) and the enigmatic title character (Emperor Hirohito). more

  • 63
    USA Today - by Claudia Puig
    Some of the film's most illuminating scenes involve Aya's uncle, General Kajima (Toshiyuki Nishida), who schools Fellers on the sense of duty that is ingrained in Japanese culture. more

  • 63
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch - by Joe Williams
    This true-ish story adds a romantic subplot to the prosecution of Japanese war criminals by American general Douglas MacArthur, but neither the love nor the war are completely baked. more

  • 63
    Rolling Stone - by Peter Travers
    Only near the end, when MacArthur and Hirohito meet in person, do we get fireworks. And that's thanks to Jones, who makes sure this old soldier will never die in our memory. As for this tepid movie, it just fades away. more

  • 63
    Movie Nation - by Roger Moore
    Tommy Lee Jones gives us a saltier version of MacArthur than the image-conscious general ever let on to. more

  • 50
    New York Post - by Lou Lumenick
    “Let’s show ’em some good old-fashioned American swagger,’’ MacArthur says on his arrival in Tokyo. It’s too bad director Webber and the screenwriters, David Klass and Vera Blasi, didn’t take his advice to heart instead of largely wasting Jones and some very nice period details. more

  • 50
    Boston Globe - by Mark Feeney
    When MacArthur stands side by side with Hirohito (Takatarô Kataoka), it’s the ultimate in victor-vanquished encounters. That’s also true whenever Jones shares a scene with Fox. more

  • 50
    Chicago Tribune - by Michael Phillips
    This one's likely to vex both history buffs and those who require some drama with their drama. more

  • 50 - by Stephanie Zacharek
    Emperor may not be the most dazzling of history lessons, but it never treats the past as a dusty, deserted place. more

  • 50
    The Playlist - by Kevin Jagernauth
    The movie is never without forward momentum, it's just too bad when just when it's ready to go to interesting places, we jump back to Bonner and Aya's pedestrian romance. more

  • 42
    Portland Oregonian - by Marc Mohan
    It's almost too bad, then, that MacArthur and Jones take a back seat to the far less interesting Gen. Bonner Fellers in the stolid drama Emperor. more

  • 40
    Variety - by Peter Debruge
    Emperor’s bloodless presentation fails on a fundamental dramatic level, playing like the fancy version of a junior-high educational filmstrip, down to the false suspense of Alex Heffes’ corny ticking-clock score. more

  • 40
    NPR - by Joel Arnold
    So it seems like the next logical step in telling a story with a relationship to truth might be that if you're going to fudge things, at least make it entertaining. Please, pull an "Argo." more

  • 40
    Los Angeles Times - by Betsy Sharkey
    The war crimes and romance stories theoretically run on parallel tracks, but the overall pacing is ragged and the dialogue frequently out of step with the characters we've met. more

  • 40
    The New York Times - by Stephen Holden
    Mr. Jones’s performance is the only spark within this otherwise dull, well-mannered exercise. ...

  • 40
    New York Daily News - by Joe Neumaier
    Director Peter Webber (“Girl With a Pearl Earring”) fills the film with conciliatory emotion and jarring vistas of post-atomic landscapes. Unfortunately, Emperor needs more good ol’-fashioned swagger. more

  • 40
    Time Out New York - by Joshua Rothkopf
    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 Howard Hawks. more

  • 25
    Slant Magazine - by Esther Yi
    Peter Webber's historical drama is blunt about its stylistic ambitions while at the same time failing to meet them, and the effect is one of sad ineffectuality. more

  • 20
    New Orleans Times-Picayune - by Mike Scott
    There's really nothing definitive about Emperor. Or memorable, for that matter. more

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